Organisations call on Prime Minister to change rotten planning appeals’ system

Organisations call on Prime Minister to change rotten planning appeals’ system

No sign of promised reform as planning increasingly becoming a developers’ fiefdom

Fourteen organisations are denouncing the failure to reform the law regulating planning appeals, something which was promised by the Prime Minister in May last year, but never materialised.

Currently, developers may be allowed to start construction works covered by permits that are under appeal, leading to several cases of planning permits being revoked for buildings that are already completed. No action is then taken by the authorities to remove these illegalities.

The law allowing works during appeal proceedings is a blatant breach of the fundamental right to legally challenge decision of the Planning Authority (PA). Communities and organisations not only have to carry the financial burden of contesting irregular PA decisions, but they also risk doing so in vain since developers are allowed to build anyway.

Over the past months, the Court revoked permits for swimming pools in Qala’s ODZ, parts of a Sannat development, a Xewkija development, and a Mellieħa hotel, after finding serious breaches of planning law in the issuance of their permits by the PA. All these structures had already been built by the time of their permits’ revocation, and they stand intact to date.

Works on other massive developments, such as Villa Rosa in St. Julian’s and Mistra Village in Xemxija, have started despite ongoing appeals contesting their permits’ legality.

In May last year, Prime Minister Robert Abela had promised changes to the law so that development permits would not be executable until the appeal is decided. But the promised changes have not yet seen the light of day. The Government had only issued a very worrying public consultation which, under the pretext of introducing these long-overdue measures, was in fact seeking to limit the right to appeal. The organisations had officially presented their feedback to this consultation, and nothing more has been heard since.

The organisations note with indignation that while this promised reform – needed to safeguard the very basic right of appellants – has stalled, at the same time Government rushed into proposing amendments to DC15. These amendments aim at allowing developers to build an extra floor, thus increasing crowding, congestion and construction activity across Malta and Gozo. Moreover, developers who had permits revoked for not respecting rules on the allowable number of floors – but had completed their buildings anyway by the end of the appeal proceedings – would now be able to regularise their illegal buildings.

The above points to a deeply rotten planning regime where every decision, at every stage, is taken to favour developers and disempower the people. As a result, our towns, villages and countryside are being ravaged by greed and run by bullies.

We call onto the Prime Minister to immediately usher in the promised reform on suspending the execution of permits whilst appeal proceedings are underway before the Tribunal (EPRT) and the Court of Appeal. This will be one first small, but essential, step in introducing a modicum of decency within our planning system.

Azzjoni: Tuna Artna Lura
BirdLife Malta
Din l-Art Ħelwa
Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar
Friends of the Earth Malta
Grow 10 Trees
Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation (MaYA)
Moviment Graffitti
Nature Trust Malta
Ramblers’ Association Malta
The Archaeological Society Malta
Wirt Għawdex

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