The approval of the application to build add a six-storey pencil development on top of a house that had been certified(*1) as being unstable, contravenes planning laws, regulations and past refusals. Development application PA 03552/15 had again been recommended for refusal by the Planning Authority Case Officer, the Sanitary Officer and the PA Cultural Heritage Officer. The main reason for the refusal recommendations was Malta’s sanitary law which has always sought to limit the height of buildings in narrow streets in order to ensure minimal standards of light and air to surrounding homes. Tall buildings in narrow streets also trap toxic emissions which contribute to the fact that 14% of Malta’s health problems are due to environmental factors.(*2)
However a top MEPA official had publicly admitted that the planning boards had ignored this police law blatantly.
The situation has now spun out of control due to the deluge of planning regulations issued in quick succession by this government. These have corrupted every notion of good planning in allowing PA board members to base decisions on ‘existing context’. This effectively means that developers can now use abusive permits to justify more damaging permits.
The Chamber of Planners recently stated, “Unfortunately, there exists a misconception that the PA, its actions and decisions are always motivated by planning theory and principles or driven by planners. Regrettably, this is not the case.” (*3) Instead of holistic planning that takes into account all social and economic factors, planning has been reduced to “laying the canvas to carry forth the interests of small powerful lobby groups, leaving vague lacunas in between and modifying legislative frameworks to weaken counterchecks and concentrating decision-making to a handful of people”. The reduction of the planning decision boards from 10 to three active members and permitting back-room decisions away from the public’s watchful eyes, has institutionalised the corruption of MEPA’s original role as a planning regulator, to a developers’ facilitator.
Since this case contravened both recent law and legislated regulations one asks, why is the public paying millions in salaries for many hard-working and honest PA employees when the Boards are taking the ‘anything goes’ approach to continue the uglification of Malta? We might as well disband the Planning Authority since its motto has been reduced to ‘anarchy rules’.
The FAA Committee
*1 Report by structures expert Dr Ruben Paul Borg. B.E.&A.(Hons)(Melit.), Spec.Struct.Eng.(Milan),Ph.D.(Sheff.), Eur.Ing.,C.Eng.,M.I.C.E.,C.Env.,M.I.E.D.,M.A.S.C.E.,M.I.C.T.,M.C.S.,Perit.
*2 “WHO estimates that the environmental burden of disease in Malta is 14% of the total burden.” http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/95343/E93547.pdf
*3 “Planning Profession”, http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20161024/letters/Planning-profession.628975