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Spike in development permits since election announcement

The week period between 13 May and 19 May saw a total of 276 development permits granted - the highest number of approvals so far this year

yannick_pace
Yannick Pace
1 June 2017, 12:03pm
While some withdrawn applications might have needed some ‘bona fide’ modifications, it could also indicate promises of a local plan revision shortly after the election
While some withdrawn applications might have needed some ‘bona fide’ modifications, it could also indicate promises of a local plan revision shortly after the election
The number of development permits granted by the Planning Authority has spiked since the general election was announced on 1 May, according to data publicly available on the authority’s website. According to the data, an average of 245 permits have been issued every week since the announcement, compared with 196 per week on average since the start of the year. The week period between 13 May and 19 May saw a total of 276 permits granted - the highest number of approvals so far this year.

Speaking to MaltaToday in March after a similar analysis of planning permits, biologist and Environment and Resources Agency board member Alan Deidun said he expected the numbers for 2017 to exceed the previous year, since the country was nearing an election.

Looking through the number of permits issued on a week-by-week level illustrates this even further.

For a more complete picture, data from 1 January till the end of May (27th) in the last two election years (2008 and 2013) were also analysed.

While a similar trend was observed in the run-up to the March 8 2008 election, with the number of permits granted increasing steadily up until election week, the same cannot be said for the weeks before the 2013 election, when permits continued to be issued at a normal rate in the weeks leading up to the March 9 election.

This indicates that the power of incumbency through the issuance of last minute permits was not visibly exercised since no increase can be seen in the run-up to the 2013 election.

“The pre-2013 [election] figures could be due to a backlash from the development zone revision exercise conducted in 2006, with the environment having attracted the ire of the public in the run-up to the 2013 election and hence there was a sense of caution in issuing ODZ permits at the time,” said Deidun.

He added that the Labour Party had reacted to the backlash by putting up election billboards promising a MEPA which is closer to the public.

Total Permits Jan - May 2017
Total Permits Jan - May 2017
In 2008, the general election was held on 8 March, and like the current year, the granted permits started to increase roughly a month before, reaching their highest point two weeks before the election.

Outside Development Zone permits show a similar pattern. Deidun pointed out that the “permissive ODZ policies of 2014” did not help the situation.

He added that while both political parties have taken a stand against ODZ development, neither has taken up recommendations by eNGOs to repeal and re-draft these policies. Instead, both parties have committed not to developing ODZ land for public projects.

“There is very little hope for change given that it is only large-scale ODZ projects which fall under parliamentary and Planning Board scrutiny,” said Deidun. “The combined footprint of all these small-scale ODZ developments likely surpasses that of the much-maligned Zonqor permit.”

Probable local plan revision

The 2017 data also shows a large spike in the number of applications that were withdrawn by the applicant leading up to and following the election announcement, reaching a maximum of 190 in one week.

Asked what might explain such an increase, Deidun said that while a considerable number of these applications would have been submitted by “bona fide applicants” who would have done so to modify their applications, it could also indicate promises of a local plan revision shortly after the election.

“Applicants might have been advised to withdraw their application for the time being, so as to avail themselves of a more congenial framework in a few months’ time,” he said.

yannick_pace
Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...
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