Seven environmental organisations today filed a judicial protest against the recently-introduced Legal Notice allowing the regularisation of Outside Development Zone illegalities.
The organisations have consistently and strongly opposed the legislation, which they say is “intended to appease developers and reward illegalities in our countryside”.
While the original 2016 regularisation scheme only accepted sites within the development boundaries, the new scheme refers to ODZ sites.
It will include illegal developments that go against planning policies.
As such, the NGOs said in a statement, “Policies which are supposed to prevent such development from being allowed will now be overruled by developers seeking to regularise their illegal developments in exchange for a paltry fine”.
They insist that, contrary to the impression given by the government, the illegalities that can be regularised through the Legal Notice “are not limited to tiny areas which may have accidentally slipped over the development zone.
“Alarmingly, there is no limit on the scale of ODZ illegalities that can be regularised. The scheme will even allow for the regularisation of illegalities within Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Natura 2000 sites.”
The strong opposition to this scheme expressed during the public consultation process last November was totally ignored without justification, the NGOs underscore.
They observe how even the Environment and Resources Authority has reportedly had its concerns over the legislation overridden.
The organisations involved in the judicial protest – BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Għawdix, Moviment Graffitti, Ramblers Association Malta and Wirt Għawdex – argue that the introduction of this Legal Notice is illegal since a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) was not carried out.
The conduction of an SEA is a legal obligation when planned laws and policies stand to affect SAC and Natura 2000 sites.
They also state that the Legal Notice contradicts several laws, policies and conventions, such as Maltese planning law and the Aarhus Convention which establish the right of appeal for third parties.
There is no such right under this Legal Notice, the judicial protest contends.
The seven organisations say they are “determined to take forward their legal challenge to this shameful scheme.
“The Government-sponsored ravaging of our countryside has to stop.”
The recent extension of the regularisation scheme will allow developers who built on sites that were partially in Outside Development Zones to be able to pay a simple fine to legalise the irregularities.
While the original 2016 regularisation scheme only accepted sites within development boundaries, the new scheme refers to sites encroaching on ODZ and includes illegal developments that go against established policies.
Recently labelling the scheme as “morally dubious”, Kamra tal-Periti had called for it to be “reconsidered in its entirety to mitigate its social and environmental impacts”.
It is believed that developers who built on Outside Development Zone boundaries are set to cumulatively rake in millions of euros if a Planning Authority legal amendment that will wipe out ODZ boundaries and regularise more illegal development sees the light of day.
With the amendments to the 2016 Regularisation of Existing Development Regulations, a scheme that was meant to have lasted just two years but which was instead extended indefinitely, developers who built on sites “partially” in ODZ will now also be able to pay a fine to legalise their irregularities.
While the original 2016 regularisation scheme only accepted sites within development boundaries, the new scheme refers to sites encroaching on ODZ and will also include illegal development which goes against policies.
Developers of such sites are now set to rake in millions of euros since they would be able to far more easily sell their properties on the market as banks would finally be in a position to finance loan agreements that they were otherwise largely unable to agree to because the properties were not regularised.