Massive Kalkara development bid will be renewed by Planning Authority

The Planning Authority is set to renew a permit for the construction of 88 apartments and 93 garages on 6,200 square metres of green, open space on the Kalkara valley slope

The Planning Authority is set to renew a permit for the construction of 88 apartments and 93 garages on 6,200 square metres of green, open space on the Kalkara valley slope.

The permit is set to expire in January 2023.

The application is now being recommended for approval by the case officer, in the absence of a report providing a justification for the favourable recommendation. A PA spokesperson confirmed with MaltaToday that since the application is being assessed through the summary process, no case officer report is being prepared.

Renewal applications are listed in planning law among the kinds of developments which can be exempted from the full application process. Apart from renewal applications, these include minor applications like swimming pools and blocks of less than 16 apartments located within the development zone and outside the urban conservation area.

By law ‘summary’ applications are decided within 42 days, and are determined by the chairperson of the Planning Board or his delegate, within six weeks from the publication of the application.

In this case developer Lawrence Fino chose to file the application through the summary process after withdrawing a previous application submitted in May requiring the full process.

Yet even when a developer files an application under the summary procedure, the PA can still choose to apply the full procedure. By law this is done when representations are received within the consultation period and the chairperson of the Planning Board or his delegate deems such representations carry planning merits.

In such cases the application would then undergo the entire planning process and not be decided summarily.

In this case 11 objections were filed by a number of residents, including Moviment Graffitti, reporting the loss of a massive open space which includes old carob and pomegranate trees.

The land in question was controversially included in development zones in 2002 despite protests by residents. Fino’s application was approved in 2012 despite opposition by the local council, and renewed through the full application process in 2017.

On that occasion the application was renewed with the condition that neighbouring properties are surveyed before commencement of works, since several safety issues were raised with regards to excavation works because of the alleged presence of wells, hallows, and caves in the area. The condition will still stand if the permit is renewed.

In the absence of changes to policy and local plans or the issue of conservation orders, renewal permits are normally approved but there have been cases where these were not granted.

One notable case involved the PA’s refusal of the renewal of a permit issued in 2011 for a new cemetery in Pembroke which was still turned down because a new policy introduced in 2014 banned the development of new cemeteries.

Since 2012, the only significant change in policies was the approval of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development, which includes a number of generic policies to protect townscapes.

When last renewed in 2017 the case officer simply mentioned the Strategic Plan (SPED) in passing, but made no attempt to assess the development according to the new policy limiting an analysis of what is permitted by the local plans which have not been changed since the first permit was issued.