The Planning Authority has yet to complete enforcement action on almost 700 illegal developments, new data for the last five years tabled in parliament on Tuesday reveals, once again raising concerns on a lack of action against an illegality free-for-all.
The illegal developments listed are a subset of all enforcement cases which legally allow the authority to take direct action. Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi listed them in response to a parliamentary question by opposition MP Stanley Zammit.
Zammit tabled a parliamentary question asking for a list of all cases since 2018 where the Planning Authority identified an illegal development but that the authority is still “taking action on or considering to do so”, as per Article 100 of the Development Planning Act.
Zrinzo Azzopardi’s response laid bare a total of 695 illegal developments against which enforcement action has not been completed despite open cases.
All the listed cases had surpassed the time limits stated in their enforcement notices, which call for their removal.
Following the expiration of a time limit in an enforcement notice, the Act allows the authority to take direct action “without any other formalities required by any other law,” including disabling or removing equipment and carrying out any works to comply with the enforcement notice.
Despite this, no direct action was taken in these cases.
Examples of the illegalities include the illegal dumping of scrap vehicles, unpermitted alterations to buildings, construction of unpermitted agricultural rooms, illegal extensions to quarries and the unpermitted construction of whole residential buildings.
The illegalities also include dozens of encroachment cases by restaurants which install semi-permanent structures on public land, illegally extending the size of their establishments.
The sheer number of cases, the lack of action, the seriousness of the violations, and the passing of legal deadlines raise concerns about the authority’s lack of action when dealing with illegal developments.
The Executive Council and the Planning Board form the authority’s two main branches. The council comprises six members, including representatives from the Planning Board and the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA). Ostensibly, it is a centralised point for processing development applications and enforcement.
The council is currently headed by Planning Authority Executive Chairman Oliver Magro, with Dr Emanuel Camilleri, Mr Martin Camilleri, Prof. Saviour Formosa, Dr Stephanie Abela, Ms Carmen Buttigieg and ERA CEO Kevin Mercieca as its members.