ODZ permits already up by 74% over last year

The number of Outside Development Zone permits granted by the Planning Authority so far this year is 74% greater than the number awarded in the same period last year

Between the 1 January and 4 April 2017, 269 permits were granted within Outside Development Zones, compared to 154 approved in the first three months of 2016 (File photo)
Between the 1 January and 4 April 2017, 269 permits were granted within Outside Development Zones, compared to 154 approved in the first three months of 2016 (File photo)

The number of Outside Development Zone (ODZ) permits granted by the Planning Authority (PA) so far this year is 74% greater than the number awarded in the same period last year. 

Between the 1 January and 4 April 2017, 269 permits were granted within Outside Development Zones, compared to 154 approved in the first three months of 2016.

In the first quarter of 2016, the PA decided 320 planning applications in ODZ areas, while this year there have been 429 decisions so far. This increase could be attributed to the fact that general elections are drawing nearer, but it is also clear that since 2011 the number of positive decisions on ODZ applications has been steadily increasing. 

Whereas between January and April of 2016, 48.1% of applications were approved, during the same period this year this has shot up to 62.7% approvals – meaning that more than half of ODZ decisions were to grant permission.

In comments to MaltaToday last month, biologist and Environment and Resources Authority board member Alan Deidun said that there has always been a trend in Malta where the number of ODZ permits granted, increases significantly in the year before an election.

“I expect it to be higher this year [2017], both because of the election and because applicants have become accustomed to the revised ODZ guidelines,” he said. 

On more recent trends, Deidun said that while he could not point to any concrete data, his attention had lately been drawn to a number of developments on ODZ land, many of which seem to be larger than usual. 

“Anecdotally it seems that bolder applications are being approved, both in terms of the size and scale of the developments,” he said, reiterating that the revised policy guidelines issued in 2014 were more “permissive”.

Architect and government policy advisor on planning laws and reform Robert Musumeci, who last month was reported by this newspaper to have had the greatest number of ODZ permits granted in his name, said he has not noticed any difference in the way ODZ permits were being granted.

“There is definitely no difference in the attitude of the commission. It would be worrying if there was,” he said, adding that to his knowledge, the commission had always acted “within the limits of discretion conferred to it by law, specifically Article 72 of Chapter 522 of the Laws of Malta.” 

He said there was nothing to suggest that the Commission had ever failed to implement “an objective standard of reasonableness” or t decided whether to grant permits arbitrarily or capriciously. 

“I cannot think of any particular situation where the Commission has acted on a collateral purpose or for improper motives,” said Musumeci, who stressed that a nuanced approach must be taken when analysising such data and that a granted ODZ permit does not necessarily go against the spirit of planning policies.

Last month, a MaltaToday study found that out of the 1,339 planning decisions issued by the PA, 736, or 55% were positive decisions up from 46% the previous year and 30% at the start of the legislature.

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