Neighbours’ veto on zoning removed

Consent of 75% of neighbours no longer required for presenting an application to change street alignment and zoning of a particular area

The government has issued a legal notice through which developers will no longer require the written consent of 75% of neighbouring owners in the same street when they apply to change the street alignment of a particular area.

The proposal was issued for public consultation in November.

Changes to zoning and street alignment are normally done through a Planning Control  (PC) application. The changes can be requested by MEPA itself if these are deemed to be in the interest of proper planning. In such cases, MEPA is not required to seek the consent of residents in the area surrounding the development.

But when changes are requested by a private person, the consent of 75% of neighbouring residents is needed before an application can be presented.

A PC application can change only two conditions: the road alignment and the zoning of a site.

Contacted by MaltaToday in November, the former CEO of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, planning lawyer Ian Stafrace, was sceptical, noting that the consent mechanism avoided a “cascading of litigation and disputes” after the approval of planning changes.

But former planning minister Michael Falzon had welcomed the change, insisting that “giving people incontestable rights over their neighbours’ property never works”.

He also had said that existing regulations of the consent mechanism practically give the power of veto to owners, resulting in abuse.

Effectively what will happen is that MEPA will still determine applicant-driven PC applications without the neighbouring consent.

According to the government the aim of the reform is to facilitate the processing of planning control applications.

Owners presenting PC applications will still have to notify neighbouring owners of their plans. 

The consent of 75% of owners will still be required in cases where a parcel of land is proposed for comprehensive development, as was the case of formerly ODZ sites added to development boundaries.