Malta Independent

Procedure not followed for Dingli road works – Environmen­t Commission­er

- KEVIN SCHEMBRI ORLAND

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.

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