PR 11/17 | Kamra tal-Periti comments on the proposed amendments to the DNO Classes
Reference is made to the proposed amendments to the Development Notification Order (DNO) and specifically regarding the introduction of two new Classes of development.
Once again, the Kamra tal-Periti notes with deep regret that the Planning Authority persists in failing to consult directly with the primary stake-holders on these proposed amendments to the DNO Class Order. The obligation for consultation with the Kamra and with the Chamber of Planners has been entrenched in planning legislation for decades, and has been reiterated in the recent Development Planning Act. The Kamra fails to understand why the Planning Authority persists in ignoring its obligations at law, in a manner which is, to say the least, unacceptable. This lack of correct procedure in pushing forward these amendments leaves no option but to speculate that these are being presented in order to facilitate some yet to be announced development which would not normally have been permitted without the checks and balances afforded by the Full Development Process.
The very concept, that whole classes of development are so important that they should be allowed without due process and oversight, betrays a worrying and persisting ignorance of the purpose of development planning and planning control. The ultimate objective of the planning process is the creation of an urban and rural environment of higher quality. The ultimate beneficiary of an environment of higher quality is the citizen; and the citizen has the right to an environment of a high quality whether he works in, or lives adjacent to, any class of development, be it industrial, health-related, military, and now police and correctional facilities.
It is important to ask why it is necessary for development carried out by the Director of the Corradino Correctional Facility and by the Malta Police Force to be undertaken through the DNO process rather than through a Full Development Application process or the Summary Application process, which is generally the norm for most types of new development. It is noted, furthermore, that should the Minister responsible for the Prisons or the Police deem the development to be “urgently required for national security reasons”, the development may proceed without even going through the DNO process. Had the proposed changes referred exclusively to internal alterations within either police or correctional facilities, one could understand the reference to “urgency” and DNO; but how could development, which is funded by public funds that have to be approved in Parliament, and procured via normal procurement regulations be so urgent as to make it impossible to allow time for planning scrutiny and oversight?
Although the proposed amendments include an obligation for obtaining prior clearance from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority in certain locations, these proposed amendments unnecessarily create scope for abuse. We are all painfully aware of the scar on the Valletta seafront created by the Armed Forces base at Hay Wharf, which circumvented all checks and balances because it was required “for national security reasons” – this development was allowed to take place under the same regulation regime that is being proposed for the Prisons and the Police Force. The complete disregard of the surrounding context manifested by the Authorities and the Minister responsible for the AFM with regard to the Hay Wharf building are a clear warning sign of what can happen when the floodgates are opened for unchecked development which takes place in our historic and natural landscapes.
Moreover, it is to be noted that the DNO process is the only planning application process which does not involve public consultation, and therefore members of the public will have no opportunity to participate in the planning process and to submit their views, objections, and suggestions. These amendments, which do not set any sort of limitation on the size or type of development that may be undertaken through this process, open the door for serious abuse if additional safeguards are not included.