Procedure not followed for Dingli road works – Environment Commissioner
The Commissioner for the Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman Alan Saliba has found that Infrastructure Malta did not follow procedure over road works in Dingli.
The works in question had seen Moviment Graffitti organise protests on site, having spent days blocking the works from happening.
The Commissioner had received a complaint from PN Whip Robert Cutajar regarding the creation of a road and extension of existing ones in Dingli, particularly Triq San Gwann Bosco, Triq id-Dahla tas Sienja and Sqaq il-Muzew.
In his conclusions, the Commissioner said that works by Infrastructure Malta began before they were authorised by Transport Malta and before the commencement notice regarding the
environmental permission for the removal and pruning of trees was sent to the Environment and Resources Authority.
The Commissioner said that on 2 October 2020, Infrastructure Malta began the works, which were stopped after complaints from a number of residents.
The Commissioner’s report reads that works resumed on 14 October 2020 but were stopped for a second time, this time by the Environment and Resources Authority, as Infrastructure Malta had not sent the commencement notice 7 days before works began as it was bound to have done in the environmental permit, which authorised the removal of two trees and the extensive pruning of others.
Works restarted and then stopped for the third time, and on 22 March 2021 restarted after an appeal against the environmental permit was refused.
This is where protests on site took place until works continued definitively after the relative expropriation notices were published on 12 April 2021, the Commissioner’s report read.
On the Transport Malta issue, the Commissioner wrote that it had approved the works on 17 March 2021. The Commissioner noted that the roads in question appear on the 1988 regulatory plans, and the PA said that these roads hadbeen planned for a long time. However, the Commissioner says that it seems little information was available when the works were actually going to start, so much so that the Transport Malta permit was issued five months later.
In his conclusions, the Commissioner wrote: “There is no need for a recommendation to be made for everyone to follow the law, as this should always be the order of the day, particularly for government entities that are an example to citizens.”
“However, the importance of a one-stop shop is being repeated, so that citizens would be well informed and so that fines imposed on government entities would not only result in an internal transaction.”
The one-stop shop idea was put forward by the Commissioner back in 2019 and would, among other things, receive every complaint about any environment-related matter, be it on the built environment or the unbuilt environment. In 2019, it was proposed that this would have the power to keep the entities concerned informed about the complaint; to receive commencement notices for every project; to serve as a collector of fines; and to serve as a central point where government entities can discuss sticking points between themselves, among other things.
Another recommendation by the Commissioner on this Dingli decision is that the changes to the Environment Protection Act conclude “in the quickest possible time,” and that they should incorporate a suspension period for environment permits pending a period of appeal.
The Commissioner said that the changes to the Environment Protection Act that are being discussed would result in more transparency and the introduction of public participation in environmental decisions similar to the procedures for permits before the Planning Authority.
This decision by the Commissioner was on one of a number of complaints that had been filed by PN MP Cutajar, with others relating to works in Comino, Marsa, Attard, Mosta, among others, some of which have already been decided.