NGOs condemn PA’s ‘COVID-19 crisis’ extension of development permits for construction industry

10 environmental NGOs condemned the decision to extend development permits valid until 2022 for another three years

Environmental NGOs have condemned the government’s decision to extend development permits valid until 2022 for another further three years.

In a statement, the eNGOs condemned the “unprecedented move” by the Planning Authority to extend permits’ expiry dates.

Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) said the PA had “lost track of its mission statement, to secure a balanced and sustainable environment for our community and provide a better quality of life through a sustainable land use planning system.”

The NGOs said the new legal notice had come into effect on the island during a time when the primary focus is on coping with the COVID-19 epidemic, so as to “go unnoticed” amid concerns for the health and safety of the nation.

“The Legal Notice was not preceded by a legally required public consultation. Indeed, the present slowdown totally debunks and discredits the PA’s claims of urgency to justify its lack of public consultation. The Planning Authority’s invitation for the public to participate at hearings electronically is discriminatory and excludes persons without access to electronic means of communication.”

The NGOs said the rules on videoconference meetings made a mockery of the Planning Authority’s obligation to have meetings which were open to the public, disregarding the concept of “force majeure” which would result in an “unjust” situation where the implementation of a permit would not be suspended until the final appeal decision.

“Planning permits will be issued practically by email whilst the appeal process before the EPRT and the Court of Appeal is completely at a standstill. The Legal Notice makes a mockery of the Aarhus Convention, which does not include a clause allowing the PA Chairperson absolute discretion to act in a discriminatory manner regarding planning applications.”

With applications about to expire now renewed almost automatically, the NGOs questioned the blanket extension to all applications with the excuse of a construction industry struggling COVID-19 crisis. “Such a brazen blanket extension makes the forthcoming reforms of the SPED, Out of Development Zone and Petrol Station Policies merely token policies, since all extended applications will not need to conform to these policy revisions. The Planning Authority and the politicians who drive it make it crystal clear yet again, that their priority is not the regulation of planning systems that ensure the public’s well-being, but the fostering of the destructive construction mania so eagerly promoted by the development lobby.”

The statement was signed by Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), Futur Ambjent Wiehed (FAW), Ramblers Association Malta (RAM), Bicycle Advocacy Group (BAG), Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation (MaYA), Friends of the Earth Malta (FoE), Moviment Graffitti (MG), Nature Trust Malta (NTM) and Isles of the Left (IotL).

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