FAA questions the “negative developments in planning regulations”

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FAA questions the "negative developments in planning regulations"Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, in a statement today, outlined what it describes as “several negative developments in planning regulation that have taken place recently.” These include the saga of the boathouses at Dwejra.

FAA said, “this Thursday, during a public meeting, the MEPA Board is to debate applications for boathouses at Dwejra, Gozo, which had been refused in 2011.”

“These cases were going through the Appeals Tribunal – how they are to appear before the MEPA Board is anybody’s guess.”

“The boathouse saga all over our islands is synonymous with environmental mismanagement, poor governance, political manipulation, cronyism and lack of political courage. The fact that these refused applications are being reconsidered now, speaks volumes, the NGO stated.

The NGO expressed its concern about the Government’s issuing of a legal notice allowing MEPA to reduce fines imposed for planning abuse.

“This is a planning regress seeks to reverse the 2011 introduction of stricter daily fines, as prior to 2011 the maximum fine amounted to Lm50,000.”

The Government is now inviting abusers to make submissions to “specify the impelling reason or reasons why the penalty established in the [2011] notice should not be paid, as well as the manner in which the fine is to be varied.” Since when do we allow wrong-doers to decide their own punishment? FAA asked.

“A MEPA committee is to be set up to deal with these requests, however no policies or parameters have been published in order to guide this committee in an accountable and equitable manner.”

Moreover, FAA said, “this legal notice was issued by the Government directly, rather than being initiated by MEPA and presented for public consultation which was completely bypassed. This is a very ominous development which has already been used when Government invited developers to submit projects for land reclamation, side-stepping the need to issue a policy subject to consultation and EU scrutiny.”

FAA stated, “along with the ‘planning amnesty’ announced in February 2015 to sanction up to 10,000 long-standing illegal developments, this latest reduction of fines is yet another policy reinforcing the message to the public that in Malta crime pays.”

In October 2014 MEPA announced a new policy, removing the obligation for developers to obtain consent of at least 75% of neighbours in cases of changes in zoning or street alignment. FAA questioned, “as this done in order to facilitate the processing of planning control applications or in order to aid developers?”

“Last week, MEPA announced a downgrading of Traffic Impact Assessment requirements. A Simplified Traffic Statement – is being introduced, so that most large projects which would require a full Traffic Impact Assessment, now only need a Simplified Traffic Statement, in order to “reduce the burden on developers.”

“All these policies and Legal Notices have been drafted with the sole aim of facilitating more development, with no consideration for the long-term benefit of residents or for Malta’s environment,” said FAA.

“The 49% of Maltese who are disillusioned by the Government’s environment track record is set to grow,” concluded FAA.

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