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Planning Authority makes U-turn, website to allow searches by location

PA re-introduces search facility enabling users to search permits by location following a MaltaToday report and public criticism

james
James Debono
25 July 2017, 5:11pm
The Planning Authority has made a U-turn on its controversial website decision
The Planning Authority has made a U-turn on its controversial website decision
Following public outcry and a MaltaToday report, the Planning Authority has backtracked on its decision to remove the possibility for people to search online for planning applications and enforcement notices by locality.

The Planning Authority’s new website, launched on Monday, had only allowed people to search for cases specifically by their case number, but it now also allows them to search for cases by location.

The old website had allowed people to type in the name of a town or village and get access to the list of planning applications and enforcement notices for that locality. This meant that, for example, people could access all ODZ applications in a town by simply typing in that town’s name.

Through the old website one could simply input the name of a Maltese town or village and get a list of all applications, pending a decision, presented outside development schemes or with the urban conservation area in that locality.

One could also further restrict the search by limiting it to a particular year. With the old website it was possible to get a constantly updated list for all pending ODZ permits in any town or village. It was also possible to search all the pending enforcements in each of the 68 Maltese localities.

However, as launched yesterday the new website only allowed people to search for cases specifically by their case number. This means that, unless people are in possession of the case number, such information can now only be gleaned through tthe Planning Authority’s geoportal.

The new format of the website was criticised by Front Harsien ODZ which had called on the Planning Authority to immediately reinstate the facility to search for all pending ODZ applications in each locality of Malta and Gozo and the facility to search all pending planning enforcements in each locality of Malta and Gozo.

"In this way, Local Councils, NGOs and the general public are being deprived of a valuable tool to scrutinise all pending applications including those presented in the past and those which have still not been published in the government gazette but which have been given a PA number."

Front Harsien ODZ said that although the present website still gives viewers the opportunity to view applications published in the government gazette each Wednesday, the present website is deprived of the facility to search all pending application in each locality and to do so by ODZ or UCA designation.

On Monday the PA insisted that it wasn’t trying to deprive or restrict the public from accessing development planning application information.

“The Authority’s online digital platforms which include the website, the GeoPortal and the e-Applications system are all inter-related to provide the public with the highest level of transparency,” it insisted.

The PA confirmed that its website presents weekly lists of all planning development applications it receives by locality.

“To facilitate the user experience, the website also allows the user to view the list of planning applications it receives depending on whether the site is within an urban conseration area (UCA) or outside the development boundaries (ODZ),” it added.

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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