Sunday Times of Malta, 15th June 2008, by Claudia Calleja –

Residents of Mellieħa’s exclusive Santa Maria Estate are far from amused after road resurfacing works in the area, which they have long been fighting over for, suddenly stopped.

Property owners in this villa area were hoping they would finally have decent roads when last August the Malta Transport Authority reached an agreement with the private company that owned the land.

The company – Cenmed Ltd owned by property magnate Albert Mizzi – moved out of the picture when the government agreed to accept around €1 million (Lm429,000) to carry out works on some 19 roads.

But around a fortnight ago, barely three months after the jackhammers started, workers suddenly left the site leaving the roads dusty and still under construction.

When one resident asked what the problem was, he was told works had stopped due to a lack of funds.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, a spokesman for the Transport Ministry confirmed that works on a number of roads in Santa Maria Estate started at the end of February and, some weeks ago, works related to the sewage system were halted.

“When roads began to be uncovered it was discovered that the drainage system in the area was much more extensive than what was assessed after the CCTV camera examination carried out last year. This will require revisions of cost estimated and the allocation of more funds. Estimates are being revised… The variations are now being reviewed and, following their clearance, works will proceed,” he said.

He added that so far €600,000 (Lm257,580) worth of works had been carried out.

Mellieħa mayor Robert Cutajar said he was monitoring the issue to ensure that works would proceed as soon as possible.

He explained that just three of the 19 roads were complete while another three were nearing completion. Contracts are awarded for three roads at a time.

The Santa Maria Estate roads saga started in 1963 when Mr Mizzi bought the temporary leasehold of the area from the Metropolitan Chapter and erected a gate at the entrance, where the estate meets the principal road of Mellieħa.

Taking over the land meant that Cenmed was responsible for constructing the roads, the drainage system, electricity, water and other services. However, in the 1970s, the barrier was removed, because it impeded access to the beaches, and Cenmed had argued that as a consequence road asphalting and maintenance was the government’s responsibility. For decades the situation remained unclear and, in 1997, the Mellieħa council, representing the residents, filed a case against the company claiming that it was not honouring its obligations.

Following a legal battle, the court ruled that the company was responsible, so it is forking out most of the expenses, that is €1,048,218 (Lm450,000).

In a news conference held last March, then Roads Minister Jesmond Mugliett said that the works would cost €1,677,150 (Lm720,000), of which the government was forking out €466,000 (Lm200,000) and the Transport Authority €163,000 (Lm70,000).