Build­ing Reg­u­la­tion Of­fice has no staff on week­ends to tackle re­ports of con­struc­tion il­le­gal­i­ties

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - He­lena Grech

The Build­ing Reg­u­la­tion Of­fice is in its fourth week with­out staff at week­ends, on pub­lic hol­i­days or even after of­fice hours to re­spond to calls from the pub­lic re­gard­ing re­ports of con­struc­tion il­le­gal­i­ties, The Malta Inde

pen­dent on Sun­day is re­li­ably in­formed. Sev­eral sources close to the sit­u­a­tion also re­vealed that the short­fall in staff stems from a lack of fund­ing, with the BRO be­ing un­able to pay ex­ist­ing staff over­time rates for shifts out­side of­fice hours.

This means that builders work­ing at week­ends, pub­lic hol­i­days and after of­fice hours ap­par­ently have some­thing of a carte blanche, safe in the knowl­edge that there will be no one to crack down on them, should they not abide by the let­ter of the law dur­ing those times.

Worse still, the same sources all ques­tioned how the BRO has no money to pay over­time or to in­crease its staff com­ple­ment when it is gen­er­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­come from the reg­is­tra­tion of En­ergy Per­for­mance Cer­tifi­cates. The BRO re­ceives €75 per cer­tifi­cate reg­is­tra­tion.

By law, any­one sell­ing, con­struct­ing or rent­ing a build­ing is obliged to present an EPC – which re­mains valid for 10 years – dur­ing the pe­riod of prom­ise of sale or rental agree­ment or on the con­tract date.

The BRO is the en­tity peo­ple are urged to call when they notice con­struc­tion il­le­gal­i­ties. This news­room had its own ex­pe­ri­ence with con­tact­ing the BRO on Satur­day morn­ing, when a con­struc­tion site was emit­ting mas­sive amounts of dust which even con­fused mo­torists due to the lack of vis­i­bil­ity. Videos can be found on this news­room’s on­line por­tal www.in­de­pen­dent.com.mt

The de­mo­li­tion work was tak­ing place on Birkirkara Hill and this news­room re­peat­edly called the BRO emer­gency num­ber to re­port the of­fence of fail­ing to em­ploy any mea­sures to mit­i­gate the mas­sive vol­ume of dust be­ing re­leased into the air and on third party prop­erty. Meth­ods such as spray­ing wa­ter or us­ing ma­chines equipped with ex­trac­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties may be used to re­duce con­struc­tion dust.

The emer­gency BRO mo­bile num­ber was switched off, which would cor­rob­o­rate the claims of sources that there are cur­rently no mem­bers of staff work­ing out­side reg­u­lar of­fice hours.

There have been no pub­lic an­nounce­ments by the au­thor­i­ties, in the mean­time, to per­haps re­port such il­le­gal­i­ties to the po­lice in the ab­sence of the ap­pro­pri­ate en­force­ment of­fi­cers who should be avail­able through the BRO.

In Malta, it is il­le­gal for con­struc­tion work to take place on Sun­days and pub­lic hol­i­days. Last week, a story car­ried by this news­room de­tail­ing res­i­dents’ com­plain­ing of con­struc­tion tak­ing place on Sun­days and Pub­lic Hol­i­days prompted sources to come for­ward about the sit­u­a­tion in the BRO and its lack of en­force­ment staff.

Com­plaints about the sit­u­a­tion across the coun­try have been rife on so­cial me­dia in re­cent weeks.

In ad­di­tion to this, the law stip­u­lates that con­struc­tion/de­mo­li­tion work must ad­here to strict dust mit­i­gat­ing prac­tices in or­der to re­duce the con­sid­er­able nui­sance caused to neigh­bours.

In a le­gal notice that dates back to 2007, the law stip­u­lates: ‘No per­son shall un­der­take any con- struc­tion with­out util­is­ing the fol­low­ing dust con­trol mea­sures:

‘A. Ap­pli­ca­tion of wa­ter or pre-soak­ing and/or chem­i­cal dust sta­bilis­ers or any other ap­pro­pri­ate dust con­trol tech­nique, dur­ing con­struc­tion in such a man­ner as to limit any gen­er­a­tion of dust to within the site bound­ary.’

An­other rel­e­vant sub-clause in this le­gal pro­vi­sion states:

‘C. Prior to leav­ing the site, the owner must en­sure that on a daily ba­sis, pub­lic side­walks and pub­lic ar­eas within 10 me­tres from ei­ther side of the ex­trem­i­ties of the con­struc­tion site in­clud­ing side­walks and roads are swept or vac­u­umed.”

Malta has been hit with un­prece­dented lev­els of con­struc­tion in the last few years. De­mand for res­i­den­tial prop­erty, of­fice space, fac­tory space and other prop­er­ties has boomed since Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat was elected into power in 2013. His gov­ern­ment’s main fo­cus – and the big­gest feather in Mus­cat’s cap – is the coun­try’s strong eco­nomic growth and his­tor­i­cally low un­em­ploy­ment un­der his watch.

Such de­mand and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity has driven ac­cel­er­ated con­struc­tion projects, with de­vel­op­ment per­mits fly­ing out of the Plan­ning Author­ity like hot­cakes.

In such a small is­land, with so much con­struc­tion hap­pen­ing in ev­ery area, at all times, it is there­fore of para­mount im­por­tance to have strong en­force­ment prac­tices to en­sure that con­struc­tion com­pa­nies are obey­ing the rules to en­sure as lit­tle en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion as pos­si­ble, not to men­tion the health haz­ard caused by dust in the air and the on­go­ing noise pol­lu­tion.

This news­room sent ques­tions to the Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Plan­ning and the Prop­erty Mar­ket Chris Agius on Satur­day af­ter­noon, but at the time of go­ing to print no replies had been re­ceived.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day asked how the gov­ern­ment could jus­tify the fail­ure to pro­vide the BRO with suf­fi­cient fund­ing to man­age the on­slaught of con­struc­tion sites across the is­land through a well­staffed depart­ment.

Week­end de­mo­li­tion work on a house in St Ju­lian’s yes­ter­day cre­ated clouds of dust that blan­keted the area, with no en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties to be found

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