Updated | New Planning Authority website makes it tougher to search for applications

People used to be allowed to access all ODZ applications in a town by simply typing in that town's name • Planning Authority says planning information still accessible and more work expected in the coming weeks to upgrade its digital platform

The Planning Authority launched a revamped version of its website today
The Planning Authority launched a revamped version of its website today

The Planning Authority has launched a new version of its website, silently removing easy access for people who want to search for planning applications and enforcement notices by locality.

The old website had allowed people to type in the name of a town or village and get access to the list of planning applications and enforcement notices for that locality. This meant that, for example, people could access all ODZ applications in a town by simply typing in that town’s name.

However, the new website only allows people to search for cases specifically by their case number. This means that, unless people are in possession of the case number, such information can now only be gleaned through the Government Gazette and the Planning Authority’s geoportal.

Whilst the user can still find a list of applications in ODZ and in urban conservation areas (UCA) presented every Wednesday, they will not be able to search for all of such applications in each locality.

Planning Authority executive chairman Johann Buttigieg failed to mention this change when he launched the new website at a press conference this morning.

People can no longer search for planning applications and enforcement notices by locality
People can no longer search for planning applications and enforcement notices by locality

Instead, he said that the website has become more user-friendly and that it will allow people to access development notification orders and compliance certificate applications online, saving them the hassle of having to travel to the PA’s offices.

The PA soon reacted to MaltaToday’s story, insisting that it wasn’t trying to deprive or restrict the public from accessing development planning application information.

“The Authority’s online digital platforms which include the website, the GeoPortal and the e-Applications system are all inter-related to provide the public with the highest level of transparency,” it insisted.

But like Front Harsien ODZ argued, local councils, NGOs and the general public have been deprived of a valuable tool to scrutinise all pending application – including those presented in the past, and those which have have not yet been published in the Government Gazette, but which woul dhave been given a PA number.

The PA confirmed that its website presents weekly lists of all planning development applications it receives by locality.

“To facilitate the user experience, the website also allows the user to view the list of planning applications it receives depending on whether the site is within an urban conseration area (UCA) or outside the development boundaries (ODZ),” it added.

Like the old website, the user is provided with a calendar facility – made more user-friendly – showing the daily agenda of planning applications that are to be decided upon by the executive council, planning board or commission. A list of all the enforcement notices the Authority would have issued the previous week will also be published.

For users to be able to search all applications – whether they are PA applications, planning control applications, DNO applications, regularisation applications or enforcement notices – the user must know the PA number. All information pertaining to a particular case will then provided once the search is activated.

“Over the coming weeks the Authority will continue to work and upgrade its digital platforms to keep enhancing the user experience,” it said.

New PA website a step backward in transparency - Front Harsien ODZ

Front Harsien ODZ called on the Planning Authority to immediately reinstate the facility to search for all pending ODZ applications in each locality of Malta and Gozo and the facility to search all pending planning enforcements in each locality of Malta and Gozo.

"In this way, Local Councils, NGOs and the general public are being deprived of a valuable tool to scrutinise all pending applications including those presented in the past and those which have still not been published in the government gazette but which have been given a PA number."

Front Harsien ODZ said that although the present website still gives viewers the opportunity to view applications published in the government gazette each Wednesday, the present website is deprived of the facility to search all pending application in each locality and to do so by ODZ or UCA designation.

Moreover past website also gave viewers the opportunity to search applications by street or location as an alternative to the geo-server where the viewer has to have clear knowledge of the exact geographic location of a development.

Front Harsien ODZ described the latest changes to the PA website as a step backwards in terms of transparency and is calling on the PA to immediately reintroduce the features which have been removed from the new website.

"One of the few positive things of the PA has been its transparency in providing information on pending applications.  The new website is a big step backward and an insult to people's intelligence and betrays the expectations of a modern democratic society."

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