Long-promised ban on construction works under appeal to be discussed

The government is launching a public consultation process ahead of new laws, which will halt development and construction works under appeal, but has not defined a timeline for the reform.

The new laws would automatically suspend the development permit when it is appealed before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) and the Court of Appeal.

The proposed legislative amendments also seek to introduce time limits on the EPRT and Courts by which they are to reach a conclusive decision on the appealed development.

Developers have been allowed to continue work despite ongoing appeals. The issue came to the fore this summer with excavation works at the former Mistra village site, which has seen development from morning to night despite a Court of Appeal decision calling on the Tribunal to review the development’s permit.

The public consultation process, which will open on Monday, 9 October, running until 3 November, seeks to establish the appropriate time limits to be introduced for the Court of Appeal, retaining an existing time limit of three months on EPRT appeals.

Currently, third parties objecting to a development may launch an appeals process with the EPRT alongside a request for the suspension of works. The request is only accepted in limited circumstances. The EPRT is expected to decide within three months of the first hearing.

Objectors who do not agree with the EPRT decision may escalate the appeal to the Court of Appeals. Throughout this time, developments whose works were not suspended by the tribunal may continue despite being subject to the appeals process.

The proposed amendments

The government’s proposals, listed in a discussion paper published on Friday, include updates to the law, which will see works automatically suspended if their permit decision is appealed by registered third parties.

Apart from the automatic suspension, tribunal appeals will remain largely the same, retaining a current three-month time limit for decisions but possibly introducing extensions based on the number of appeals submitted to the tribunal for the specific development.

The discussion paper states, “The government is also seeking to impose a timeframe for delivery of decisions by the Court of Appeal,” imposing time limits on the judiciary process.

The proposals make no consideration for situations in which the courts exceed established time limits, raising questions on how they would be enforced with the judiciary.

Time limitations for appeals sent from the Court back to the tribunal will also be introduced, with the government seeking to establish a three-month limit, the same as for new appeals.

Additionally, the changes will include government-appointed officials to the tribunal, which will handle logistical and documentation issues, helping “expedite the appeal proceedings”.

The proposal paper makes considerations against “frivolous or vexatious appeals”, requiring appeals on  “environmental and planning grounds relative to objections already submitted to the Planning Authority”.

Neither the press release nor its attached proposal document stipulates a time frame by which the legislative reform is expected to be introduced.

An ongoing issue

Last Month, The Shift reported how Prime Minister Robert Abela refused to answer questions from The Shift on a commitment made in his Worker’s Day speech in May to address the issue.

At the time, Kamra tal-Periti (KTP) President André Pizzuto had told The Shift KTP believes “that while under appeal, permits should not be executable,” noting how, on the other hand, “an appeals process shouldn’t drag on for years and years,” calling for a balanced and fair system.

NGOs such as Moviment Graffitti have maintained that the current system allows for buildings to be completed or substantially built while the appeal is ongoing, prejudicating the process.

Over the summer, works on a Xemxija residential complex slated for the former Mistra Village site have been going on in full swing, with amendments to a summer construction ban made to accommodate the development.

This is despite an ongoing appeal in front of the EPRT and a Court of Appeals ruling that an earlier EPRT verdict against appellants was unjust.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ian Borg completed the construction of a pool in an outside development zone at his residence in Santa Katerina, Rabat, while the permit for the pool was under appeal. No action has been taken despite the appeals process confirming the pool as illegal.

Public submissions to the consultation process may be made at this link from Monday until 3 November.


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4 months ago

This will never happen.
Robert Abela is NOT his own man. Seems he never was, except on a boat when he goes invisible..
Look how he had to justify the mess exposed in the corruption scandals with more to come.
Is having secret bank boxes for holding the packs of €50 or gold bars also government policy?
Definitely untraceable , but which banks? The ones in those countries frequently visited , UAE , Dubai , London , Zurich ,?????

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