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