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On election eve, Planning Authority ‘regularised’ three times normal workload of planning illegalities

Illegalities regularised by the Planning Authority during the electoral campaign amounted to 588, 405 of which were issued in the final two weeks of the electoral campaign

james
James Debono
28 July 2017, 7:53am
The total number of illegalities regularised by the Planning Authority during the electoral campaign amounted to 588
The total number of illegalities regularised by the Planning Authority during the electoral campaign amounted to 588
A record 72 planning illegalities were “regularised” by the Planning Authority's planning commission on Friday, June 2, just a day before the general election.  

This confirms that the Planning Commission, which issues regularisation permits through a scheme introduced by the government last year, had accepted a larger caseload of such permits in the final days of the election campaign.  

Regularisation of illegalities ranging from the size of internal yards to full regularisations of illegally built structures makes it possible for the owners to put these properties back on the market.

In the last week before the general election, a total of 261 illegalities where sanctioned compared to only 75 in the last week of April, 43 in the last week of June, and to 81 in the first week of July.

The total number of illegalities regularised by the Planning Authority during the electoral campaign amounted to 588, 405 of which were issued in the final two weeks of the electoral campaign. 

The number of regularisations increased from just 40 in the first week of the campaign to 65 in the second week, to 78 in the third, to 144 in the fourth week and finally to 261 in the last week.

This suggests that in the final week of the election the number of irregularities was more than three times the usual number of permits issued through the scheme.

The number of permits issued in the week before the election was previously impossible to verify because these were published in the government gazette on different dates.

The information came to light thanks to the revamped PA website which for the first time lists the permits issued through the PA’s regularisation scheme on each day.  

A previous probe by MaltaToday showed that 388 permits were published in the government gazette during the election period but this did not include a number of permits which were only published in the government gazette after the electoral campaign.  

The regularisation scheme, which came into effect in August 2016, excludes the regularisation of ODZ developments but includes illegalities carried out within the development zone – including urban conservation areas – carried out before 2016.  

Although anyone regularising an illegality will have to pay a hefty fine, which can rise up to €7,600 for a 175 square metre illegal penthouse, the scheme, unlike previous exemptions from pending enforcement orders introduced before 2013, will enable owners to sell such properties. The ‘amnesty’ is not automatic because a board assesses applications for regularisation. 

The Planning Authority is legally obliged to refund 90% of the fees incurred by applicants whose applications to regularise illegalities are rejected, and is under no legal obligation to ask these owners, through an enforcement notice, to remove these illegalities. 

Most illegalities sanctioned consist of minor irregularities such as internal yards built not according to sanitary regulations, lack of respect for street alignment and minor deviations from approved plans.

But the developments regularised in the final week included a restaurant in Triq Congreve in Wied iz-Zurrieq. In this particular case the advice of the case officer who recommended a refusal was ignored.  

Another case which was approved despite the negative recommendation of the case officer involved the regularisation of an entire flat on a receded floor in Nadur in Pjazza Pietru u San Pawl – the main square in Nadur, Gozo.

Other cases of regularisations with the favourable recommendation of the case officer involved a three-storey dwelling house and basement in Gharb and the regularisation of a roof solarium, hot tub and kids pool in Xewkija.

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