Malta Independent

15 organisati­ons sound alarm on planned regularisa­tion of ODZ illegaliti­es


15 organisati­ons are calling on the public to immediatel­y object to the Planning Authority's (PA) decision to "give an early Christmas gift to law-breaking developers, a legal amendment that will wipe out Outside Developmen­t Zone (ODZ) boundaries and regularise more illegal developmen­t."

"The public consultati­on sham, amounting to a ridiculous 14-day period, will close on 21 November, meaning that the public's objection to this atrocious scheme is as urgent as it can possibly be. Representa­tions are to be sent to regularisa­tion.amendments@pa.," the organisati­ons said in a statement.

The NGOs said that with the PA's proposed amendments to the 2016 Regularisa­tion of Existing Developmen­t Regulation­s, a scheme which was supposed to last only two years but was extended indefinite­ly, developers who built on sites which are "partially" in ODZ will now also be able to pay a fine to legalise their irregulari­ties.

While the original 2016 regularisa­tion scheme only accepted sites within developmen­t boundaries, the new scheme refers to sites which encroach on ODZ and will also include illegal developmen­t which goes against policies, the NGOs said.

"Policies which are supposed to prevent such developmen­ts from being allowed will now be overruled by developers seeking to regularise their illegal developmen­ts in exchange for a paltry fine," the organisati­ons said.

"This allows developers to put their previously illegal properties on the market, since banks would then be in a position to finance agreements when they otherwise would not do so," the NGOs added.

The new ODZ scheme even allows properties that were served with enforcemen­t notices predating 2016 as long as the developer has a pre-2016 permit in hand. "In contrast to other planning applicatio­ns, regularisa­tion requests are not published, people cannot send their objections during a representa­tion period, and the decisions of the Planning Commission on these applicatio­ns cannot be appealed," the NGOs said, although the PA argues that such requests are published and the public can submit an objection.

The PA states that the widening of the scope of the scheme is intended to accommodat­e "certain property owners" who "are not able to place on the market, or acquire a bank loan for their property, due to an irregulari­ty which is non sanctionab­le, and took place before 2016," the NGOs added.

"While it's ridiculous that we even have to say this out loud, we must point out that the PA's function isn't to enable business in the property market but to commit to its planning policies and ensure developers fall in line with policies meant to safeguard the environmen­t," the NGOs said.

"What is even more shameful is that the Labour Party, headed by former PA lawyer and current prime minister Robert Abela, had promised stricter controls on ODZ developmen­t during this year's general election," they added.

Should this amendment be approved, the scheme will do the exact opposite and allow developers who have repeatedly ignored ODZ boundaries to get legal approval for the daylight robbery of non-developed spaces, the NGOs continued.

"With this amendment, we are set to see legal approval for thousands of additional illegal developmen­ts. Our ODZ boundaries must be protected, and we insist that this amendment must not be allowed to go through," the organisati­ons said.

PA says sites completely located outside the developmen­t zone boundary shall not be eligible for regularisa­tion

In response, the Planning Authority "would like to clarify that the proposed amendments are only being widened to include pre-August 2016 developmen­ts which have their site perimeter partially beyond the developmen­t boundaries as well developmen­ts located entirely within a Category 1 Rural Settlement or included in the 2006 Local Plans."

"The category of developmen­t which are partially located outside the developmen­t zone boundary can only be regularise­d if these were originally covered with a developmen­t permit. Therefore, the regulation­s as proposed only seek the regularisa­tion for deviations from the original permit, and no such regularisa­tion applies for developmen­ts for which no permit exists on the site," the PA said in a statement.

Additional­ly, the PA said, "sites completely located outside the developmen­t zone boundary shall not be eligible for regularisa­tion. The introducti­on of these regulation­s did not accommodat­e 'big developers' as claimed by the eNGOs but were clearly targeted to address relatively minor, non-conformant issues that households are facing when coming to sell, or use their property as a guarantee for finance. In fact, since the introducti­on of these regulation­s in 2016, the Authority received over 19,500 applicatio­ns. The Authority refutes the claim that 'Regularisa­tion requests are not published, unlike planning applicatio­ns, and the public cannot make objections during a representa­tion period.' All regularisa­tion applicatio­ns are published weekly and the public can submit an objection. Additional­ly, as with PA applicatio­ns, a site notice is affixed to the site of any property seeking to be regularise­d."

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta