NGOs call on prime minister to change ‘rotten’ planning appeals system

Fourteen organisations have issued a scathing critique of the government’s failure to reform the planning appeals system, a promise made by Prime Minister Robert Abela in May 2023 that has yet to materialise.

The current system allows developers to commence construction on projects even while appeals are pending, leading to instances where planning permits are revoked for buildings that have already been completed.

This practice, the organisations argue, violates the fundamental right to challenge Planning Authority (PA) decisions.

In recent months, the Court has overturned permits for several developments, including swimming pools in Qala’s Outside Development Zone (ODZ) and parts of projects in Sannat, Xewkija, and Mellieħa. Despite these rulings, the structures remain intact, highlighting the ineffectiveness of the current appeals process.

The organisations point to ongoing construction at large-scale developments like Villa Rosa in St. Julian’s and Mistra Village in Xemxija despite active appeals contesting the legality of their permits.

This situation places a significant financial burden on communities and organisations challenging PA decisions, and there is a risk that their efforts may be in vain.

While the promised reforms have stalled, the government has proposed amendments to DC15, allowing developers to add an extra floor to buildings. This move, the organisations claim, would increase congestion and construction activity across Malta and Gozo.

In their statement, the coalition of organisations characterises the current planning regime as “deeply rotten,” favouring developers at every stage and disempowering citizens.

The statement reflects a growing frustration with a planning system prioritising developers’ interests over environmental and community concerns, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive reform in Malta’s urban planning processes.

The statement calls on Prime Minister Abela to immediately implement the promised reform, suspending permit execution while appeals are underway before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) and the Court of Appeal.

The organisations argue that this change would be a small but crucial step towards introducing fairness into Malta’s planning system.

The statement is signed by: Azzjoni: Tuna Artna Lura, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Għawdix, Grow 10 Trees, Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation (MaYA), Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers’ Association Malta, Rota, The Archaeological Society Malta and Wirt Għawdex.

                           

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