Malta Chamber of Geologists: ‘people are not protected by the current regulations’

Recently formed Chamber decries lack of response from government following attempts at establishing relationship


The president of the recently formed Chamber of Geologists has decried government authorities’ lack of response to the organisation’s request for a meeting, in particular over its calls for involvement in planning and environment-related processes, and said regulation changes after the tragic death of Miriam Pace in a house collapse have not made people safer.

“We were the last country in the EU without such an entity, although it is better late than never. Even countries like San Marino had a national association before we did!” the Chamber of Geologists stated.

The Chamber’s primary bone of contention with planning and environment authorities revolves around the fact that developers filing planning applications are not required to carry out geological assessments of a site. At best, geologists are sometimes tasked with supervising works as they are ongoing.

“While that can be done, the problem is the following: given the fact that the Planning Authority isn’t asking for geological studies when necessary, the likelihood becomes that this won’t be carried out,” a spokesperson for the Chamber said.

Elaborating on the lack of response from the government, the Malta Chamber of Geologists stated that “the government is intent on marginalising geologists as much as possible”, later adding that it hopes that the re-shuffle in ministerial portfolios might lead to a different approach from the authorities on the matter.

“Before 2019, both the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority would ask for geological studies, and geologists used to be hired for these reports. Now, geology and all aspects of it have disappeared from the process,” the spokesperson said.

Developers are at most legally obliged to provide a geo-technical study, which consists of bedrock testing and similar procedures which yield information about the type of rock to be excavated and built upon in a given site.

”So on the one hand they’re saying that they’re going to modernise the construction industry, which would be a good thing, while on the other hand, they are leaving things as they are. You cannot talk about modernisation and then have a situation in which rock-testing is being carried out without any geological assessment,” the Chamber stated.

The Chamber of Geologists insisted that such studies can only be interpreted and analysed by a geologist who can assess natural features of the rock, arguing that a geo-technical engineer’s role is to design a building’s foundation.

“The Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority just keep telling us that geo-technical studies are being carried out and that’s it. This is not a substitute for proper geological studies, and this omission has been occurring over years. This leads to a situation in which yet another architect ends up being employed for a project while the proper scientific studies are not carried out,” the Chamber stated.

A recent example of the government’s reliance on geo-technical studies rather than geological ones was observable in the Environment and Resources Authority’s decision to object to a public works project near the Veċċja sea cave in St Paul’s Bay.

In separate comments on development applications near the sea cave, the environment authority called for a geo-technical report to confirm that the proposed works would not impact the ecologically significant area. The president of the Malta Chamber of Geologists, Peter Gatt, had commented publicly on the matter.

Regulations benefit ‘those who stand to make money’

In 2019, the government had published Legal Notice 136, which removed a specific reference to geological studies being necessary to ensure avoidance of damage to third-party properties. The reference was replaced by a more generic term: ‘ground investigation’.

The relevant extract from Legal Notice 136 of 2019.

The legal notice was drafted with the involvement of architect and lawyer Robert Musumeci, who had publicly spoken about his role in the legislative amendment and had defended it following public outrage over a spate of house collapses that year.

“Musumeci is obviously an architect enabling his own profession, and this is not different. Bearing in mind that the legal notice was meant to protect third-parties from damage to their property, this was instead turned around to favour the developer,” the Chamber maintained.

Referring to the accident which led to the involuntary homicide of Miriam Pace, in which the architects responsible were found guilty of negligence and causing damage to neighbouring buildings, the Chamber of Geologists insisted that the changes in legislation failed to resolve the problems which led to house collapses.

“And that’s without even thinking about all the people currently living in fear next to development. People are not protected by the current regulations, which only benefit those who stand to make money from development,” the spokesperson added.

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22 days ago

Kif gabuhom zewgt igzejjer! Xi kruha! Imma l poplu kuntent ghax qed jiddejjen biex jinvesti! Minghalih!!

Petra Bonello
Petra Bonello
22 days ago

Totally agree. I moved to Gozo because of the stress caused by the building industry and their lack of responsible methods. The method statement I received is a joke. Will not say more here but am disgusted at the building industry and lack of enforcement. And we call ourselves Christians…

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