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Robert Musumeci’s ODZ approval rate tripled since becoming planning advisor in 2013

The number of ODZ permits architect Robert Musumeci secured for his clients tripled since his appointment as the Office of the Prime Minister’s main planning consultant in May 2013, a Shift News investigation of all ODZ data from January 2008 to June 2016 reveals.

Robert Musumeci (Photo\: Facebook)

Architect and now lawyer Robert Musumeci saw his ODZ application fortunes change after his appointment as Consultant on Planning Legislation and Lands Reform in the Office of the Prime Minister in May 2013.

Musumeci, also a legal advisor to the Lands Department, secured an average of 1.4 ODZ permits every month for his clients in the year leading up to May 2013.

This average then rose consistently in the following months, reaching 3.7 ODZ permits per month – almost one per week – during the first half of 2016.

The greater number of ODZ permits granted to Musumeci’s clients is not simply due to a greater number of submitted applications, as he told MaltaToday last year, where he writes a weekly column on planning legislation.

In fact, Musumeci submitted fewer ODZ applications on behalf of his clients since his appointment in the Office of the Prime Minister, where he advised on the April 2016 demerger of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) into the Planning Authority (PA) and the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), which relaxed planning restrictions.

Between January 2008 and March 2013, there were a total of 311 decisions on ODZ applications submitted by Musumeci on behalf of his clients, 55% of which were decisions to grant permission.

Between May 2013 and June 2016, there were a total of 115 decisions on Musumeci’s client’s ODZ applications, 79% of which were decisions to grant permission.

Neither is the change in Musumeci’s ODZ fortunes part of a broader trend among all other architects, although ODZ planning enforcement has softened since May 2013.

Between January 2008 and March 2013, 54% of ODZ applications submitted by the average architect, excluding Musumeci, was granted permission. From May 2013 to June 2016, the figure rose to 65%, which is 22% lower than Musumeci’s corresponding figure.

In comments to The Shift News, Musumeci said that there is no link between the approval rate of his ODZ applications and his consultancy role, insisting “I have never advised government on ODZ policies.”

He added that while most of his ODZ applications are directly connected to agricultural activity, there has been no change in his ODZ application fortunes after taking up his advisory role given that he topped the charts before and after becoming a government consultant.

The trend, he said, has prevailed since statistics were first published in 2008.

The number of decisions to grant permission despite MEPA or PA case officers recommending refusal also jumped for Musumeci’s clients after May 2013.

For the year leading up to May 2013, there was an average of 0.6 such instances per month for his clients. From May 2013 to June 2016, the average doubled to 1.2 such instances per month.

The board granted permission to Musumeci’s clients despite case officers recommending refusal 45 times from May 2013 to June 2016.

Musumeci also tops the charts in the scale of his ODZ activity. Between January 2008 and June 2016, there were a total of 428 decisions on ODZ applications submitted by Musumeci on behalf of his clients.

This places him at the top of a list of hundreds of architects who submitted ODZ applications in the same period. Ex-Labour MP and architect Charles Buhagiar comes second with a total of 299 decisions, 43% lower than Musumeci’s figure

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