PR 03/16 | Planning Authority’s reply unsatisfactory

The Kamra tal-Periti notes that the Planning Authority’s reply to its press release of the 11th May 2016 enters into a long-winded recount of various meetings held with the Kamra over the past months. However it blatantly fails to comment on the subject of the Kamra’s statement, namely that the revocation of the Development Notification Order (DNO) was carried out without consultation with the Kamra tal-Periti, and this in breach of the Development Planning Act.

The Planning Authority is reminded that, at no point during the meetings held this year did it consult with the Kamra tal-Periti about the intention to revoke the Order in its entirety leaving a legal vacuum in the interim. The Kamra tal-Periti denies having been consulted on the new draft Development Order and on the revocation of the 2007 Order, and reiterates that this is a specific obligation of the Executive Council of the Planning Authority arising from the Development Planning Act.

The Planning Authority also failed to comment on the fact that as of Monday 9th May 2016 it was not accepting new DNO submissions, leaving the profession and the public in the dark as to when and how the new DNO regulations will be promulgated. This means that until such time as the new regulations are in place, certain works which were considered as permitted development under the Order, such as minor internal alterations, cannot be undertaken today since this would constitute illegal development in view of the revocation of the Order which regulated these types of works.

PR 02/16 | Planning Authority in breach of obligation to consult

The Kamra tal‐Periti strongly deplores the fact that the Planning Authority is failing to carry out proper consultation with it on matters relating to planning application procedures.

In particular, it condemns the fact that the Development Notification Order (DNO) of 2007 was unilaterally revoked through Legal Notice 164 of 2016 without any form of prior notice, and this specifically in breach of the provisions of Article 55 of the Development Planning Act which oblige the Executive Council of the Authority to formally consult with the Kamra tal‐Periti.

As a result of this complete disregard for stipulated legal obligations, members of the profession are not in a position to advise their clients in an adequate and informed manner, and this situation has also created a vacuum since the Authority is not currently accepting any new DNO submissions until a new Legal Notice is published to replaced the now defunct Order.

The Kamra tal‐Periti calls on the Government to immediately withdraw the said Legal Notice and to ensure that all provisions of the Development Planning Act are adhered to.

The Kamra tal‐Periti further calls on the Executive Council to consult with the Kamra in a proper manner, not only because it is obliged to do so under the Development Planning Act and under the provisions of the Periti Act, but more importantly because proper and adequate consultation with the profession ensures transparency, which is paramount in the planning process.

PR 01/16 | MEPA Demerger

Reference is made to the press conference held on the 4th April 2016, wherein the Hon Dr Deborah Schembri announced the official demerger of MEPA into two separate Authorities, namely the Environment and Resources Authority which was established earlier this year, and the newly established Planning Authority.

As it has stated on various occasions, the Kamra tal-Periti is of the opinion that the success of any reform of the Authority responsible for land use planning and development permitting goes beyond the detail of legalisms, and will depend primarily on the accountability, professional conduct, competence, experience and qualification of the officials charged with these matters, and on the overall intention of the legislator to truly achieve sustainable development through a holistic approach rather than one which panders to the self-serving interests of the various players in the sector. The Kamra tal-Periti therefore looks forward to the coming months which will reveal whether, in practice, the demerger of the MEPA will effectively result in a better quality of the planning process and ultimately, an improved quality of our built environment. In this regard, the Kamra tal-Periti reiterates its availability to continue to discuss with the newly established Planning Authority, the Environment and Resources Authority and the legislator towards ensuring a smooth transition and an improved quality of service.

The Kamra tal-Periti notes with satisfaction that a number of its recommendations over the past months have been taken on board, in particular its strong advice that the building regulation function, which primarily concerns the regulation of the construction process and detailing of buildings, should not be merged with the planning function which primarily concerns issues of land use, building volume and public amenity. In this regard, the Kamra tal-Periti notes that the provisions of the Act which will establish the proposed Building Regulation Committee within the new Planning Authority will not be brought into force immediately, and that the current Building Regulation Board and Building Regulation Office will continue to function for the time being in their current format. This is a welcome interim approach, and the Kamra tal-Periti looks forward to continue to discuss this matter with the legislator in the coming months.

On the other hand, the Kamra tal-Periti notes with grave disappointment that its strong disagreement, as expressed in various meetings with the legislator and in correspondence in this regard, regarding the establishment of the Design Advisory Committee has been ignored. The Committee as established in the Act goes completely against the concept which had been proposed by the Kamra in recent years, and which had received support from both main political parties. The Kamra’s proposal contemplated the introduction of Design Review Panels, which would be independent of the planning process and of the Authority, which would constitute a system of peer review, which would be obligatory for public projects and voluntary for other projects, and which would take a holistic approach towards reviewing the quality of projects brought before the Panels, in the interest of society at large. It is the Kamra’s opinion that the Design Advisory Committee as contemplated in the Act will not achieve any of the aims that the Kamra and its members hold dear, and will rather end up being yet another bureaucratic process, which has no real impact on the quality of the built environment.