7,000 enforcements and counting…

Six main take-aways from the Planning Authority’s latest annual report

At the end of 2018, the pending caseload of stop-and-enforcement notices issued, since 1993, stood at almost 7,000
At the end of 2018, the pending caseload of stop-and-enforcement notices issued, since 1993, stood at almost 7,000

The Planning Authority has been very busy issuing permits and receiving an average of 11 reports every day of illegalities from the public.

But it’s ‘build now, sanction later’ mentality continues to prevail, as in 541 cases of illegalities reported in 2018, the perpetrators opted to present a sanctioning application

Malta’s planning regulator has 7,000 pending enforcements

At the end of 2018, the pending caseload of stop-and-enforcement notices issued, since 1993, stood at almost 7,000.

Only 410 of these notices are subject to a daily fine. “This suggests that a more strategic approach is required to tackle the old pending cases since an administrative effort is not proving to be sufficient,” the annual report states.

Nonetheless, during 2018, 664 enforcement cases were closed by the PA’s planning directorate: 331 notices of which were closed after permission to sanction the illegal development was issued; 240 enforcement notices were closed since the illegal development was removed by the offender; whilst 52 cases were closed as a result of the removal of the illegalities through direct action by the Planning Directorate; and 41 cases were closed since the “substance of the notices was superseded by events”.

Every day, the PA receives 11 reports flagging illegalities

During 2018, the Planning Directorate received 2,560 planning complaints made by the public, which according to the report represented a decrease of approximately 15% from the previous year.

But the Directorate also received an additional 1,572 complaints with regards to infringements of Construction Site Management Regulations during the summer months.

According to the report “the enhancement of administrative channels and IT services ensured that the additional load of complaints was still expediently and effectively investigated.”

The Directorate also makes use of drones, especially in ODZ areas, to access remote areas. In addition, extensive use of tablets and smart-phones is made by the officers to access information remotely and resolve issues immediately.

In this way a total of 4,721 complaints were investigated and closed off during 2018.

The investigation resulted in the identification of illegal development in approximately half of the complaints received. These investigations required 6,178 recorded inspections by the Directorate’s officers.

541 applications to regularise illegalities flagged by public

In a reflection of the prevailing ‘build now and sanction later’ mentality, in 541 of the cases investigated, the property owner ‘resolved’ the issue by merely submitting a sanctioning application to regularise the development.

The directorate also issued 146 enforcement notices as a result of the investigation of complaints. “In relation to the rest of the cases, the contraveners removed the illegalities them-selves before the initiation of enforcement action.”

The Directorate focused on illegal changes of use to residential or commercial cases outside development zones, the removal of dumped material causing injury to amenity, and illegal billboards.

9,413 compliance certificates, a considerable number issued without inspection

Legal changes have been introduced to allow the issue of compliance certificates, required for the provision of electricity to new developments, without the sites being actually inspected. This measure “was necessary to cope with the increased workload over the past few years,” the report states.

The procedures for the receipt, vetting and assessment of requests for compliance certificates were modified so as to “ensure consistency throughout, while relying more on the declaration of conformity made by the warranted Periti”. This led to a higher percentage of compliance certificates being issued without the requirement of a site inspection by officers.

During 2018, the Planning Directorate received 9,413 requests for the issue of compliance certificates, which is a marginal increase over the previous year.

2,500 construction sites inspected

Nearly 2,500 construction sites were inspected in all the localities in Malta and Gozo, of which 1,570 sites were found to be non-compliant with Construction Site Management Regulations.

The property owners were provided with the necessary guidance to address such issues within a specific time-frame. After a second round of inspections carried out after fifteen days, 1,260 construction sites were found compliant with the minimum requirements. 310 sites remained non-compliant and stop notices were issued on these sites. Within the subsequent two weeks, 262 of these construction sites had become compliant with the instructions given by the Directorate’s officers.

Average of 33 applications received every day

With a total of 12,173 planning applications received, 2018 saw an increase of 7.7% on the previous year’s record number of submissions.

The number of new applications located in development zones and outside urban conservation areas went up by 13%, from a monthly average of 465 in 2017, to a monthly average of 524 in 2018. In total, 6,291 applications were received in development zones outside UCA areas, of which 59 percent were summary procedure applications, which apply to applications involving less than 16 new dwellings.

This means that these applications required a shorter consultation period of two weeks rather than three.

Within Urban Conservation Areas the PA received an average of 180 new applications per month.

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