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Police exempted from filing planning permits

Law exempting police from seeking planning permits comes in force but the legal notice was tweaked to give the ERA a say on any ODZ development and not just in scheduled areas like Natura 2000 sites

James Debono
24 August 2017, 9:30am
The legal notice enabling the minister responsible for the police to proceed with development on land under the operational control of the Malta Police Force without seeking a development permit has come into force.

But the legal notice has been tweaked in a way that the minister will have to get clearance from the Environment and Resources Authority, not just on scheduled land as originally envisioned in the draft issued for public consultation, but on any ODZ development.

This loophole in the original draft had been highlighted by MaltaToday in a report published last month.

The police force has a number of properties, such as police stations, located in ODZ locations such as Ghar Lapsi, Ghadira and Comino.

The legal notice as approved states that development carried out by the police force can be undertaken without even a planning notification whenever “in the opinion of the Minister responsible for the Malta Police Force” the development is “urgently required for national security reasons” and the Planning Authority “is informed accordingly.”

In cases where national security is not at stake, development carried out by the police force on land under its  “operational control”, will be exempted from full planning procedures and instead be carried out through the DNO, which applies to small-scale developments such as washrooms, traffic lights and internal alterations.

Only when the development is located on scheduled property, will the PA be obliged to seek clearance by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage. But through the latest amendment the Environment and Resources Authority will now be consulted not just on development in scheduled areas like Natura 2000 sites but also where ODZ sites are involved.

Similar discretionary powers already exist for the development required by the army or for detention facilities for irregular migrants.

In September 2013 the no-notification applied “where in the opinion of the Minister responsible for the Armed Forces or the Minister responsible for Immigration, the development is urgently required for national security reasons or for humanitarian, security or other relevant reasons, respectively.”

In this way a controversial concrete structure constructed by the Armed Forces of Malta at Haywharf was erected without a planning permit.

The Chamber of Architects had warned that although the proposed amendments include an obligation for obtaining prior clearance from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority in certain locations, these proposed amendments unnecessarily create scope for abuse.

The Chamber noted that the DNO process is the only planning application process which does not involve public consultation, and therefore members of the public “will have no opportunity to participate in the planning process and to submit their views, objections, and suggestions”.

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