Less ‘power of incumbency’ at Planning Authority in election run-up

698 planning permits issued during five-week electoral campaign, down from a record 1,247 permits in 2017 campaign

The Planning Authority’s planning commission issued 698 permits during the five-week electoral campaign in Malta, and refused just 38, with 188 permits issued in the final week of the campaign.

In the exact corresponding period in 2021, which was not an election year, the PA had issued 513 permits and refused 59.

This suggests that more permits were issued and less permits were refused during the electoral campaign. But this was nothing comparable to the 2017 election, when during the campaign a record 1,247 permits were issued.

Permits issued in last four elections
2008 2013 2017 2022
Planning permits 789 321 1247 689
Final week 181 61 233 188
Regularisation - - 588 123

The PA’s regularisation board, which is responsible with legalising minor illegalities within development zones, issued 123 permits down from 588 in 2017.

MaltaToday has been documenting the power of incumbency in the planning sector since 2008. While in the five-week 2008 campaign 789 permits were issued, only 321 permits were issued in the 12-week 2013 campaign. But this shot up again to 1,247 permits during the five-week 2017 campaign.

The most controversial permit issued during the 2022 campaign was the one for the construction of 73 flats and 60 garages, just 350 metres away from the Sannat cliffs’ edge. The application was submitted by mega-developer Joseph Portelli’s business partner Mark Agius and was approved just days after Portelli attended a meeting with Prime Minister Robert Abela.

Objectors to the project denounced the splitting of the project into three separate applications as a means to ‘bypass’ certain regulations governed by the PA. The Planning Commission also approved a new supermarket 60m away from Mosta’s Lidl, in an area which yielded archaeological remains and that will now be integrated in the supermarket’s car park.

A number of controversial applications, such as one to legalise an illegal gate blocking access to the Blata tal-Melħ coastal cliffs in Baħrija, were postponed to 8 April.

During the same period the PA’s planning board – the organ that decides on major projects – issued 12 permits while refusing six. The approvals included an eight-storey commercial development opposite the Marsa golf course by Tum Invest and Burmarrad Commercials. One of the controversial projects to be rejected was the development of a solar farm with 5,700 panels on agricultural land at Mgarr.

The decrease in permits awarded during the electoral campaign reflects the appointment of new planning commissions upon the appointment of a new minister for both environment and planning.