Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Kevin Schem­bri Or­land A Birkirkara res­i­dent, who lives close to a prop­erty which neigh­bours claim is the cause of a rat in­fes­ta­tion in the area, said that while try­ing to sleep at night they can hear ro­dents gnaw­ing through the mor­tar in the wall.

“You can’t imag­ine what it’s like un­less you were in our po­si­tion”.

This par­tic­u­lar prop­erty, on Triq Has-Sa­jjied Birkirkara, is known to this news­room. Back in 2014, an­i­mal wel­fare of­fi­cials who had gone on site told The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day that some 50 pi­geons, three horses and some rab­bits and chick­ens were found in the prop­erty. In 2015, a let­ter was sent to the Po­lice De­part­ment com­plain­ing about a rat in­fes­ta­tion.

Now, it seems legal pro­ceed­ings have been ini­ti­ated against those us­ing this prop­erty to house the an­i­mals. The prop­erty is a house of char­ac­ter sit­u­ated in an ur­ban area, which also con­tains a court­yard.

A num­ber of res­i­dents con­tacted The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day with their con­cerns, and the shock­ing sit­u­a­tion they face on a daily ba­sis. The com­plaints are mainly about the rat in­fes­ta­tion on the prop­erty in ques­tion, and videos clips and images re­ceived high­light this par­tic­u­lar prob­lem. Com­plaints also men­tion the noise made by the horse kick­ing its hooves against the wall and the filth left by a num­ber of pi­geons kept on the prop­erty.

The video clips show rats skit­ter­ing across the court­yard in broad day­light and climb­ing on walls, as well as chick­ens, roost­ers and a horse walk­ing around.

One res­i­dent who spoke to this news­room de­scribed the con­cerns he he has, and said that prob­lems have been go­ing on for a num­ber of years, “but the ro­dent sit­u­a­tion has never been as bad as it is now. When­ever I met the peo­ple util­is­ing the prop­erty in ques­tion, I would tell them to clean up. They would do so and it would be bet­ter for a while. But with the in­fes­ta­tion there is now, I felt the need to speak out. I have given up try­ing to reach some form of agree­ment with them as they seem to lack the will to solve the prob­lem.” The court­yard in ques­tion, he said, is in­vaded.

The court­yard and build­ing are quite old he said, ex­plain­ing that there are gaps be­tween the large stone blocks filled with mor­tar, and the rats dig through. “At night, we hear the rats dig­ging through the mor­tar. Imag­ine, try­ing to sleep and hear­ing that at night. It’s not a nice thing to hear. I also have a court­yard, and I don’t even open the door to it any­more, as so many ro­dents come over from their prop­erty. In the evening, as soon as I switch on the lights in my court­yard, you can see the rats scur­ry­ing.”

He said that high-up health de­part­ment of­fi­cials (tas-sanita) had gone on site, went on the roofs of neigh­bours and saw the sit­u­a­tion. “They were sur­prised by the num­ber of rats.”

Turn­ing to noise, he said that one week they would have roost­ers and some­one would tell the peo­ple in ques­tion not to keep them there. They would re­move them for a week and bring even more the fol­low­ing week.

A cou­ple of res­i­dents men­tioned that the pi­geons were a real cause for con­cern, as they can­not even open their bal­cony doors for fear the pi­geons would fly in. Fae­ces also lit­ter their roofs.

An­other res­i­dent ex­plained that see­ing rats in the street was be­com­ing quite com­mon.

Ques­tions were sent to both An­i­mal Wel­fare and the Health Min­istry.

The Health Min­istry said: “Fol­low­ing re­ports by neigh­bours who al­leged that an­i­mals were be­ing kept in un­hy­gienic con­di­tions in a built up area, in­spec­tions were car­ried out on site by var­i­ous au­thor­i­ties in­clud­ing an­i­mal wel­fare, en­vi­ron­men­tal health and PA. This led to legal ac­tion be­ing ini­ti­ated against the own­ers of the prop­erty on 29 Septem­ber 2016.”

The Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tar­iat for Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries and An­i­mal Rights, re­spond­ing on be­half of An­i­mal Wel­fare said: “The case was in­ves­ti­gated by the An­i­mal Wel­fare Direc­torate, and as a re­sult a for­mal com­plaint was sent to the Birkirkara Po­lice In­spec­tor.”

Doc­u­ments re­gard­ing the sale of the prop­erty back in 1988 show that it was sold to a per­son called Der­rick James Chick, who even­tu­ally moved to the UK. Dr Ken­neth Grima, rep­re­sent­ing one of the res­i­dents, told this news­room that the peo­ple who cur­rently use the prop­erty are squat­ters. How­ever, nei­ther the res­i­dents, nor the po­lice can ini­ti­ate legal pro­ceed­ings, as only the owner can do that. He said that sev­eral at­tempts have been made to con­tact the descen­dants of the owner who live abroad to no avail.

The peo­ple who use the prop­erty in ques­tion have now even filed an ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Plan­ning Author­ity, which was granted. The ap­pli­ca­tion was for in­ter­nal al­ter­ations, with the ad­di­tion of a wash­room.

Res­i­dents speak­ing to this news­room claim that the no­tice re­gard­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion was not vis­i­ble on the prop­erty. “How is it pos­si­ble that 12 res­i­dents never saw this,” one said.

In the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion, the ap­pli­cant ticked the box stat­ing that he is the sole owner of the site, but as pre­vi­ously men­tioned, their neigh­bours are claim­ing oth­er­wise – that they are squat­ting.

One res­i­dent filed a com­plaint with the Plan­ning Author­ity last June. “Squat­ters are us­ing prop­erty as a farm mainly for rais­ing horses and pi­geons. Lately they have erected two ‘rooms’ for the pi­geons which are vis­i­ble from my roof, one from mixed ma­te­rial and then an­other wooden one. I have no idea if they have erected other rooms in these premises since the squat­ting has been go­ing on for years”.

“This is a sen­si­tive area as it is part of the old core of Birkirkara. My worry is that the premises will con­tinue to de­te­ri­o­rate as the squat­ters have no re­spect for the build­ing’s his­toric value and nei­ther for the sur­round­ing neigh­bours’ houses”.

In re­sponse, the Author­ity said: “These premises were built prior to 1967 and the Plan­ning Author­ity has no records or per­mits re­lat­ing to the site. There­fore, en­force­ment ac­tion can­not be ini­ti­ated as re­gards the use. More­over, ap­pli­ca­tion for ‘In­ter­nal al­ter­ations and pro­posed ad­di­tion of wash­room to an ex­ist­ing build­ing’ has been granted Full De­vel­op­ment Per­mis­sion on 06/04/16 and a valid com­mence­ment no­tice has been sub­mit­ted.”

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