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Tribunal says MEPA not competent to enter into 'ownership' issues

A third party lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal following the issue of a permit entitled “to effect internal and external alterations, and to enlarge existing bathroom of a two storey residence”.

robert_musumeci
Robert Musumeci
22 October 2015, 7:50am
The said appellant alleged that the Environment and Planning Commission issued the permit “regardless of a number of grievances which are evident and which have been signalled to the commission through a written submission prior to the hearing and also during the hearing itself.”

In his appeal, the objector went on to allege that the applicant falsely declared that he is the owner of the property under consideration. Appellant made specific reference to Article 68(3) of the MEPA Act, which requires an applicant to either certify that he is the sole owner or else certify that he is not the sole owner but has notified the owners and has been granted such consent.  

According to the objector, the Commission failed to take an “essential requirement ad valididatem” (a condition for the validity of permit to subsist) into consideration. Furthermore, it was argued that an application containing a genuine error, let alone a false declaration, “not only should null and void the application but should not even be considered.”

In order to support such argument, appellant made reference to the definition of “fraud” provided in Chapter 504, namely “the submission to the Authority of any information, declaration or plan on the basis of which the Authority has approved a licence or development permission, where such information, declaration or plan is false, misleading or incorrect, irrespective of whether such deceit is the result of a wilful or negligent act”.

In reaction, the MEPA submitted that the applicant had, as a matter of fact, alerted the owners about his intentions to pursue this development application following appellant’s preliminary objections at the outset of the application process. Consequently, MEPA maintained that applicant’s position is, in any case, considered to be fully conformant with the law.

In its assessment, the Tribunal maintained that it has no competence to decide over civil issues, adding that permits are issued “subject to third party civil rights”.

In simpler terms, questions of title can only be dealt with before a Court of Law. The Tribunal also noted that the applicant in this case was the usufructuary of the property in question but failed to express itself whether he was still bound to notify the bare owners.

In its conclusions, the Tribunal rejected the appeal and held that the permit issued by the Commission to be valid.

robert_musumeci
Dr Robert Musumeci is a warranted advocate and a perit. He also holds a Masters Degree in ...
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