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KTP writes to Minister Bonnici re SCH

The Kamra tal-Periti has written to Minister Owen Bonnici regarding his parliamentary speech on the budget estimates of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. In its letter, the Kamra has acknowledged that the statistics indicating an increase in the volume of planning applications processed by the SCH has increased from 1,099 in 2015 to 5,412 in 2016.

The Kamra pointed out, however, that the statement was “misleading in that the increase is a result of the new legislation which requires the SCH to assess each and every application for development permission, irrespective of its  impact on cultural heritage matters. Prior to the demerger, the SCH only had to deal with those applications that posed a clear and direct threat to our heritage, whereas now it has to assess even the most trivial of applications, thus impacting heavily on its workload.”

The letter states that while the Kamra agrees that in a country as small as ours, many types of development may impact on our village cores and architectural and cultural heritage, we are now in a situation where the SCH is overloaded with applications to assess, to the extent that it is failing to keep up even with those applications that should fall within its direct remit.

The Kamra insisted that the SCH should be given sufficient resources to fulfill its remit and deal with “the immense workload it is faced with on a daily basis”, pointing out that the MEPA demerger has effectively weakened the SCH rather than strengthen it.

KTP offered to meet with Minister Bonnici to discuss the matter in greater depth so that the problems afflicting the SCH may be urgently addressed.

 

Planning Authority Christmas 2017 Shutdown

PA to digitise PC applications through eApps

The Planning Authority has announced this morning, in a welcome move, that the planning control applications (zoning and alignments) will be included on the eApps electronic application system.

This follows on the inclusion of DNOs, compliance certificate, regularisation and dangerous structure applications in recent months.

The new facility will come into force on 2nd January 2018. Applications which would have not been validated by 22nd December 2017 will need to be uploaded electronically as from the 2nd January 2018.

To read the full circular, including the new procedure click on button below.

KTP writes to PS Chris Agius about outstanding matters related to the PA

The Kamra tal-Periti has written to Chris Agius, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Planning, regarding several outstanding issues related to the Planning Authority that are still not satisfactorily addressed. They include:

  • Lack of adequate consultation with KTP regarding amendments to the Development Notification Order, despite the Planning Authority’s legal obligation;
  • The addition of permit conditions that are completely unrelated to planning, which are placing Periti in an impossible position to certify legality of buildings, and shifting the responsibility of Government enforcement onto Periti;
  • The grave concerns surrounding the status of CTB concessions;
  • The extensive delays in processing of planning applications caused by the lack of adequate resources granted to the SCH;
  • Circular 2/17 which makes it impossible for property buyers to appoint a Perit of their choice;
  • The need to correct the discrepancy between Inland Revenue’s UCA tax incentive schemes and the issuance of UCA certificates by the PA;
  • The failure of the Users’ Committee, of which the KTP is a member, to meet;
  • KTP’s concerns on the functioning and composition of the DAC.

 

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.

The disastrous AFM coastal base in Floriana

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.

PR 06/17 | Periti not allowed to submit planning applications during Easter Week

Periti attempting to submit new planning applications this week through the Planning Authority’s online portal were notified that “The period between 10th April 2017 and 16th April 2017, is defined as a Peroid (sic) of Inactivity through LN 162 of 2016. No new Applications may be submitted during this period. Kindly reload the application from “Draft Applications” after the 16th April 2017 to finalize the submission process.

The Kamra tal-Periti wrote to the Planning Authority and to the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, Hon Dr Deborah Schembri, as follows:

“It has come to the Kamra’s attention that the Planning Authority has unilaterally and without prior notice decided that no new applications may be submitted during this week.

This is completely unacceptable, more so because it does not arise out of any regulation that applications may not be submitted during the Authority’s inactive period. Article 16 of LN 162 of 2016 states clearly that the only impact of the Authority’s shut down periods is to suspend ongoing time frames and extend them accordingly.

This action from the Authority, which completely disregards commitments which periti have with their clients, and which individuals have with other third parties, is not on.

The Kamra tal-Periti insists that this situation is reversed immediately.”

 

No response has as yet been forthcoming.