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PR 10/19 | Planning Authority decision is “unfair, irregular and against the principles of natural justice”

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The Commissioner for Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman has found the Planning Authority’s decision to require holders of CTB concessions to sanction or regularise their property to be “unfair, irregular and against the principles of natural justice”.

The Eighth Schedule regarding Category B concessions, referred to as CTB in short, came into force in August 2012. Residential property owners were able to submit an application to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to cover illegal development that fell within specific strict parameters. If approved, the applicant would then be allowed to request permission for alterations and additions to the property, and a Compliance Certificate for the provision of new water and electrical services to the dwelling could be issued.

PA Circular 4/12 points out that CTBs do not have an expiry date. The CTB regulations had the effect of restoring the affected properties’ market value to levels comparable to legal properties of a similar description. As a result, these properties became sellable again, and banks were reassured that the effects of the concession were permanent.

With the coming into force of the Development Planning Act in 2016, the CTB regulations were repealed and no further applications could be submitted. In August 2016, new regulations were published that allowed for the regularisation of various types of illegalities, with no specific parameters, as long as these were not deemed to be an “injury to amenity”.

The Kamra tal-Periti had raised a number of concerns with the new regulations, and had published its position particularly regarding reports from members of the profession that the Planning Authority was requiring holders of CTB concessions to regularise their property, at a much heftier fee than what they had originally paid for the concession.

On the 28th January 2019, the Planning Authority published a Circular titled “Category B Concession (CTB) Explained”. The Circular concludes that when an application for development permission is submitted on a site which is covered by a CTB concession, then the irregularity “needs to either be sanctioned or removed, prior to any processing of the application.  If the illegal development cannot be sanctioned, a regularisation application would need to have been submitted and approved prior to the planning application being confirmed as complete.

The Kamra tal-Periti requested the Ombudsman’s office to investigate this matter in March 2019, outlining its opinion that holders of CTB concessions for minor irregularities were facing serious risks on their investment unless the Planning Authority changed its interpretation of the law. Banks that have taken such properties as security against mortgages are also at risk in case of default, as the value of such properties may be much lower than expected as a result.

In a decision delivered on the 7th May 2019, the Ombudsman’s Office concluded that the above quoted paragraph from the Authority’s Circular “is found to be unfair, irregular and against the principles of natural justice” and ordered the Planning Authority to “withdraw and cancel this part of the Circular to the effect that a new application can be submitted on a site covered by a CTB concession without the need for sanctioning, regularising or removing the illegal works covered by the same CTB concession, as long as no further illegal development has taken place on site.

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti does not condone illegal development in any way, however once certain rights were granted to property owners in the past these cannot be taken away at a later date, more so when the legal ramifications are wide ranging and potentially serious.

 

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PR 09/19 | Building Industry is regulated by 22 entities

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On the 26th April 2019, the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti met with a delegation of the Partit Nazzjonalista, headed by Party Leader Dr Adrian Delia, who highlighted a number of issues which the Party considers to be of utmost importance, including the need to shift from a mindset of development permitting to one of planning, and the importance of quality in the building industry. Dr Delia also highlighted the need for a long term vision for the country, and stated that the Party will insist that all the necessary technical and environmental studies related to the proposed link between Malta and Gozo are published prior to a final decision being taken.

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, noted that the Chamber presented its proposals for an overhaul of the building and construction regulations to Government just two weeks ago. These proposals were approved by the profession at a General Meeting held last November, and were positively received by the Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius. These proposals will ensure better quality in the industry and will bring it firmly into the 21st century.

She also emphasised that shifting from a mindset of development permitting to one of strategic and local planning is imperative to ensure that the urban quality within our towns and villages is not lost forever.

With regard to the proposed Malta-Gozo tunnel, Perit Vella Lenicker reiterated the position of the Kamra that the studies should be carried out and published before any decisions are taken. She also stated that it was worrying that motions had to be passed in Parliament to ensure that all regulations and legislative requirements are adhered to, and this further emphasised the need for an urgent review of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development and the translation of the Plan into the Local Plans, both of which are now practically obsolete.

A number of other issues were discussed, including the need for an architecture policy, a landscape policy and a skyline policy, as well as the need to introduce a culture of design competitions for projects which are funded by public money.

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti also presented its vision, as a member of the Architects’ Council of Europe, for the upcoming MEP elections, including the need to achieve a better quality of the built environment, the need to secure affordable housing of high quality, the need to re-think the connection between climate change and the built environment and the need to improve education and up-skilling across the sector.

The delegation of the Kamra tal-Periti included also Perit André Pizzuto (Vice President and Treasurer), Professor Alex Torpiano (Past President), and Council Members Periti Sandro Cini, Gaston Camilleri and Alberto Miceli Farrugia.

 

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PR 08/19 | The inadequacy of building and construction regulations

Following the two incidents in construction sites in Swieqi and Guardamangia that occurred yesterday, and several others over the course of the past months, the Kamra tal-Periti feels compelled, yet again, to point out the grave inadequacies of our building and construction regulations.

The Kamra tal-Periti has been exhorting Government to regulate the industry for many years, both through widely reported press statements, and at various meetings held with successive Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries responsible for the industry.

The rate of construction accidents in Malta, whether resulting in damage to neighbouring properties, injury or even death, is unacceptable. The ever-increasing complexity of today’s buildings, compounded by the current frenzy of the industry to turn around projects as quickly as possible, urgently requires an immediate and major overhaul of the country’s building and construction regulatory processes.

 

The current legislation in Malta is characterised by excessive fragmentation of responsibilities.

 

Article 1638 of the Civil Code states that [i]f a building or other considerable stone work erected under a building contract shall, in the course of fifteen years from the day on which the construction of the same was completed, wholly or in part, or be in manifest danger of falling to ruin, owing to a defect in the construction, or even owing to some defect in the ground, the architect and the contractor shall be responsible therefor.

This article in the Civil Code does not establish clear lines of responsibility, which are generally decided by the Courts when similar incidents occur, depending on the particular circumstances of each case. Moreover, whereas Periti carry a professional warrant and are subject to a Code of Professional Conduct, contractors are not regulated at all. This is especially worrying when it comes to demolition and excavation contractors. The absence of a registration system means that anyone with demolition or excavation plant can carry out such works, without any basic training, technical knowledge, or insurance cover.

The Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations (L.N. 72 of 2013) place the onus of enforcing the implementation of a works method statement drawn up by a Perit outlining the method of construction on a site manager purposely appointed by the developer, and on the contractor executing the works. Regulation 10 states [p]rofessional responsibility for the method statement remains with the perit who prepares it, whilst ultimate responsibility for adhering to the method statement rests with the site manager and the contractor.

Once again, the regulations do not establish minimum basic training or competences for site managers, not even as basic a requirement as literacy. The regulations even allow the developer to take on the role of site manager, in what is clearly a blatant conflict of interest sanctioned by the law. Indeed, if the developer fails to appoint a site manager, the regulations presume that the developer is ipso facto carrying the responsibilities of a site manager.

 

When two key players in the industry are not required to possess basic competence and are wholly unregulated, the public is exposed to unacceptably high and unnecessary risks.

 

The Kamra’s calls for an overhaul of the regulatory framework were finally heeded by Government last October when it launched the White Paper for the setting up of a new Building and Construction Authority. Just two weeks ago, the Kamra held talks with Government on its detailed proposals for the regulation of the industry to bring it in line with other European countries. The Kamra will be making its proposals public in the coming days.

The Kamra tal-Periti will not be commenting on these or other specific cases until investigations are concluded so as not to prejudice any potential proceedings.

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PR 07/19 | Kamra tal-Periti presents its vision for national building and construction regulation

Verzjoni bil-Malti

Yesterday (11th April 2019), members of the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti presented the Chamber’s vision for an overhaul of the current building regulations, which are both outdated and insufficient to ensure the highest standards of quality in the construction industry. This vision was presented to the Honourable Mr Chris Agius, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market, representatives of the Building Regulation Office (BRO) and the Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC), as well as consultants appointed by Government to oversee the establishment of a new Authority which is intended to regulate the industry.

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, explained that the proposals being presented were approved by an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Chamber held last November, and confirmed the Kamra’s full availability to participate in discussions regarding the formulation of new building regulations, as well as the technical expertise of its members to ensure the highest standards within the sector.

Vice President Perit André Pizzuto gave an extensive presentation of the Kamra’s position, starting with an overview of the current situation and its limitations. He then went on to outline the Kamra’s proposals which include the consolidation of various regulators within the new Authority, the dire need for a comprehensive register of contractors, the importance of contemporary regulations which are not prescriptive but performance-based, and the promotion of a self-regulatory approach by the various professionals involved in the construction process.

The Kamra’s proposals were received positively, and discussions will continue in the coming months to ensure full synergy between the profession and the government’s advisors.

 

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PR 06/19 | Architecture is a discipline for the common good

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 “The focus will be put on architecture as a discipline that encompasses the right balance between cultural, social, economic, environmental and technical aspects for the common good”.

This quote is taken from the European Council Conclusions for the 2018-22 EU Work Plan for Culture, under the topic “High-quality architecture and built environment for everyone.” This important milestone signifies a paradigm shift within the European Union, which has recognised architecture as a discipline for the common good. This is an important recognition that can serve as the basis on which we can build our policies and work in the future.

In a statement issued on the 5th March 2019, Georg Pendl, current President of the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE), stated that this “shows that the EU institutions no longer define architecture as being solely part of the construction industry. Does our profession share this limited point of view? Mostly not, bearing in mind that over 90% of architectural offices are small and medium-sized or micro enterprises. But, this does not mean that we would cease to recognise our role as a part of the service sector tightly connected to the construction industry.

The Kamra tal-Periti, which is a Member of the ACE, had actively lobbied for the recognition of the practice of architecture as one of the pillars of culture. It had, in fact, met with MEP Dr Francis Zammit Dimech, who is a Member of the European Parliament Committee for Culture and Education, and who had pushed forward the views of the Kamra and of ACE on this matter.

It is therefore with great satisfaction that the Kamra welcomes this development, and looks forward to seeing this approach being adopted locally.

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Commission takes further action to ensure professionals can fully benefit from the Single Market

Yesterday, the Commission has taken further steps in infringement procedures against 26 Member States to ensure the full implementation of EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications.

Only a well-functioning Single Market can deliver its full potential for citizens and businesses around Europe. In line with the Single Market Communication of 22 November 2018, the Commission is today taking further enforcement action to ensure that all Member States fully respect EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications.

Professionals in the EU Single Market can move across borders and practice their occupation or provide services in another Member States. The EU has put rules in place to make it easier for professionals, such as doctors or architects, to have their professional qualifications recognised in another Member State. The Professional Qualifications Directive (Directive 2013/55/EU) was modernised in 2013 and had to be transposed into national law by 18 January 2016.

The Commission is today sending reasoned opinions to 24 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and complementary letters of formal notice to 2 Member States (Estonia and Latvia) regarding the non-compliance of their national legislation and legal practice with EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU).

The reasoned opinions and supplementary letters of formal notice cover issues crucial for the functioning of the Professional Qualifications Directive, in particular:

  • European professional card: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden;
  • alert mechanism: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden;
  • possibility to have partial access to a professional activity: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden;
  • proportionality of language requirements: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Poland, Romania and Slovakia;
  • setting up of assistance centres: France, Hungary, Italy and Portugal;
  • transparency and proportionality of regulatory obstacles: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

These issues were also mentioned in a Communication from January 2017 on reform recommendations for regulation in professional services.

All Member States concerned have now two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Without a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to address a reasoned opinion to Estonia and Latvia, and to refer the other 24 Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Background

With the EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU) the EU has put in place a modern system for the recognition of professional qualifications and experience across the EU. It promotes automatic recognition of professional qualifications in EU countries, making it easier for professionals to provide their services around Europe, whilst guaranteeing an improved level of protection for consumers and citizens.

The Directive applies in general to regulated professions such as nurses, doctors, pharmacists or architects. Exceptions are professions governed by specific EU directives such as auditors, insurance intermediaries, air traffic controllers, lawyers and commercial agents. The Directive also sets rules for
temporary mobility, establishment in another EU country, various systems of recognition of qualifications, and checks for knowledge of languages and professional academic titles.

These rules are complemented by the European professional card (EPC), an electronic certificate available since January 2016 for five professions (general care nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, real estate agents and mountain guides). To ensure that EU patients and consumers are adequately
protected, the Commission has also introduced an Alert Mechanism. The Member State that receives professionals from other EU countries is responsible for checking their qualifications or fitness to practice and, in cases of justified doubt, contacting the Member State that issued the diploma.

To facilitate and speed up this exchange of information between Member States, the Commission has put into place the electronic Internal Market Information System (IMI).

For More Information

 

This is a press release published by the European Commission on 07/03/2019

Sustainable communities – Design Competition EOI

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PR 04/19 | Specialised Housing Programmes

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Sustainable communities

For many years, the Kamra tal-Periti has been promoting the concept that projects undertaken through public funding should be awarded on the basis of design competitions, evaluated on the basis of their contribution to the social and built environment. The adoption of such a process would go a long way towards ensuring that society is provided with the best quality projects.

It is therefore with great pleasure that the Kamra tal-Periti announces its collaboration with the Parliamentary Secretariat for Social Accommodation and the Housing Authority in the establishment of a new scheme for Specialised Housing Programmes (SHPs)

The objective of the SHPs is to identify vulnerable user groups and provide suitable accommodation which is designed around the principles of social inclusion, environmental well-being and spatial quality. In line with this ethos, the adoption of the design competition process for the procurement of the design aspect of the scheme will ensure that the highest levels of quality are achieved.

The Union of International Architects, of which the Kamra is a member, also promotes design competitions as “a quality-based and solution-oriented selection procedure for architectural services, the best way to achieve quality in the built environment. A competition provides the best solution for a concrete task, selected from among several entries by the jury. Therefore it guarantees high value and the optimal concept for the client and the users.

The scheme was initially launched last week by the Honourable Roderick Galdes, Parliamentary Secretary for Social Accommodation. Yesterday, a number of NGOs attended an information session where more details were provided about the scheme. Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, presented the design competition process to those present, outlining that NGOs will be able to select the property that will house their proposed project from a number of properties that will be made available by Government. Following an initial process of shortlisting, warranted periti will be able to submit design proposals for one or more of the shortlisted projects, which proposals will then be assessed by a jury composed of members appointed by the Kamra and the Board established to oversee the scheme.

The Kamra tal-Periti will shortly be issuing a call for Expressions of Interest for periti interested in participating in the process.

 

Further information:

https://housingauthority.gov.mt/en/Pages/Schemes/Specialised-Housing-Programmes.aspx

 

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PR 03/19 | Perit Vincent Cassar awarded the RIBA Presidential Medal

On the evening of the 14th February 2019, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) bestowed the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture 2019 on Sir Nicholas Grimshaw CBE, PPRA, who is well known for his modernist buildings, including Waterloo International railway station and the Eden Project in Cornwall. With a career spanning six decades, Sir Grimshaw was recognized for his “indelible contribution to contemporary architecture. His practice is recognized internationally for its finely crafted and technically pioneering approach to the design of buildings, infrastructure and civic projects”.

On the same evening, Perit Vincent Cassar, a Past President of the Kamra tal-Periti and current President of the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA), was awarded the RIBA Presidential Medal in recognition of the beneficial contribution and collaboration between CAA and RIBA, and to stimulate further dialogue between the two organisations.

The Medals were bestowed as part of the “RIBA Royal Gold Medal and Fellowships Week”, held between the 12th and 14th February 2019 in London, which event attracted a number of Presidents of international, regional and local organisations.

 

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw (left) with Perit Vincent Cassar

 

RIBA Royal Gold Medal and Fellowships Week

The week started off with an International Presidents’ roundtable with the participation of 12 Presidents, including: Georg Pendl, President of the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE); Thomas Vonier, President of the International Union of Architects (UIA); Victor Leonel Miguel, President of the Africa Union of Architects; and Rita Soh, President of ARCASIA. The roundtable was chaired by Ben Derbyshire, President RIBA, and focused on the “Future of the Profession” statement which was signed by the Presidents of the five architecture institutes of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Presidents of these five institutes came together to critically examine and reassert the role and value of architects in serving clients and society and have committed to:

  1. Place the public interest and value to society at the heart of all we do – by promoting the highest ethical standards and ensuring codes of conduct are continually strengthened;
  2. Be accountable, and the Gold Standard – by protecting the public and maintaining the highest standards of architectural education;
  3. Reflect the diversity of the population in our workforce – by adopting reforms and policies that promote diversity and inclusion within business practices;
  4. Research, build and share essential knowledge – by developing and disseminating the body of knowledge embedded within the profession;
  5. Lead our profession in the fight for a more sustainable built environment – by placing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a key guiding principle in all they do.

Following an overview by the RIBA President of these five goals, the participants split into three groups to discuss three topics, namely, education, public interest and networking, the latter of which was put forward by Perit Cassar during the roundtable discussion. He also emphasised the need to act on these issues now, rather than allowing them to remain on paper. The roundtable resolved that there was the need to (i) act on sharing knowledge on policy issues, (ii) ensure more Regional collaboration, and (iii) establish a global network for sharing ideas and knowledge.

A presentation of Int FRIBA (RIBA International/Honorary Fellowships) also took place on the 12th February. The RIBA has throughout its history honoured men and women who have made a major contribution to the world of design and architecture. Any architect outside the United Kingdom who is not a UK citizen, and who has a demonstrable interest in the objectives of the RIBA and exhibits distinction and a breadth of contribution to architecture, may be elected an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The lifetime honour, conferred annually, was this year conferred on six recipients.

The RIBA also awards RIBA Honorary Fellowships, to acknowledge the contributions made by the recipients to architecture in its broadest sense, its promotion, administration and outreach, its role in building more sustainable communities, and its role in the education of future generations. This year nine recipients received the award.

RIBA Fellow Member status is awarded to inspiring RIBA members who represent the diversity, talent, and dynamism of architecture and the built environment. The attributes that lie at the heart of RIBA Fellow Membership are positive contributions to architecture, from working with poorer communities, to designing infrastructure abroad, and the desire to support, influence and affect change. Eight recipients received this annual honour this year.

As part of the celebrations of the 2019 Royal Gold Medal, the RIBA Education department hosted the RIBA President’s Medals Student Crit 2019. Since 2006, the RIBA has organised a Critique (Crit) event where the winners of the President’s Medals present their award-winning work to a panel of experts comprising the Royal Gold Medallist as a guest of honour. The intention of this annual event has been to bring together the RIBA’s oldest awards in a celebration of past, present and future architectural talent, with an expert panel using their experience and expertise to critique the award-winning work produced by the President’s Medallists.

The recipients of the RIBA President’s Medals during the Student Crit

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PR 02/19 | Affordable Housing Benefit

Verzjoni bil-Malti

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti notes with satisfaction that one of its recommendations in its consultation reply on the Rent Reform White Paper has been introduced earlier this afternoon by Minister Edward Scicluna and Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes. The Kamra tal-Periti had published its consultation feedback on 30th November 2018, and put forward several recommendations and observations, including the conversion of rent subsidies into a housing allowance similar to the British housing benefit.

It had also recommended, however, that Government should keep in mind the risk that increasing liquidity in the rental market coupled with sustained population growth would result in further inflationary pressures. In the Kamra’s view, therefore, it is imperative that Government monitor closely the effects of this reform on the rental market on a continuous basis to be able to calibrate the balance between affordability and rent inflation.

Nevertheless, this measure alone will not address the problems of housing affordability. The Kamra tal-Periti looks forward to meeting with the Hon Roderick Galdes in the very near future to discuss in greater detail its other proposals on advancing affordability in the rental market.