A recent decision by Transport Malta to drop their previous objection to a narrow street on the grounds that it would cause traffic flow issues raised questions at a recent Tribunal hearing at the Planning Authority — as did the inability of Transport Malta’s Deputy Chief Officer to explain the reason for his change of mind.
Developer Chris Attard had obtained a permit in January 2017 to build 13 apartments on a plot of land in Marsascala. He then applied to amend the building alignment on 31 January 2018, proposing to decrease the width of the road from 10.36m to 9m. The additional 40 square metres, multiplied by five floors, would add space equivalent to another two apartments.
Transport Malta objected and the application was refused in a sitting on 12 February 2019, with Perit Elizabeth Ellul’s being the only vote in favour of approval.
“The building proposed is already a huge one,” the Marsascala Local Council stated in their objection. “Increasing the building line to accommodate the requests for the developer is definitely a non-starter.”
Residents also submitted objections, urging the application to be refused because the area was in great need of safe infrastructure for pedestrians. Narrowing the road would decrease or even eliminate the chance of adding badly needed pavements, according to objections filed.
Building alignment application was refused after the sitting on 12 February 2019
The building alignment application was refused following the sitting on 12 February 2019.
Sources close to the Planning Authority told The Shift that while the building was still at an early stage, the Enforcement Section of the Planning Authority received complaints from residents that the developer had ignored the refusal and gone ahead with his plans.
An Enforcement Notice wasn’t issued until 23 October, several months later, and daily fines were applied.
The Planning Authority has not yet answered questions sent on why enforcement was delayed by several months, despite complaints received from residents.
The building is close to completion, thanks to the failure of the Enforcement Section to act on the illegalities reported to them, and the developer appealed the refusal of his application to increase the building alignment.
Despite their earlier objection, on which the first refusal was based, Transport Malta issued a letter signed by Deputy Chief Officer Jesmond Muscat stating no objections to the road narrowing proposed by the developer.
Transport Malta’s Deputy Chief Officer was cross examined under oath at a Tribunal hearing on 24 October. He was unable to answer why the road narrowing would no longer have a negative impact on traffic circulation, as stated in Transport Malta’s earlier objection.
In its withdrawal of the objection, Transport Malta referred to a similar case from June 2016 where road narrowing had been allowed and a permit issued. However, the Authority’s official was confronted with the fact that this case had already been the subject of a discussion between Transport Malta and the Planning Authority before the previous objection was issued, and that it could not be used as a reason for withdrawing the objection now.
The original decision to refuse the building alignment amendment was overturned by the board at a sitting on 21 November, based solely on Transport Malta’s withdrawal of its original objection. The Appeals Tribunal did not take into consideration the fact that Transport Malta’s Deputy Chief Officer was unable to explain what had changed since the previous year.
The fact that the developer Attard continued building after his permit application was refused was also ignored by the Appeals Tribunal.