Infrastructure Malta breached Central Link permit conditions

The Environment and Resources Authority has confirmed that Infrastructure Malta was in breach of permit conditions when it started works on the Central Link Project 

As it turned out the works had already started in the absence of supervision by a tree expert and ERA had to intervene to force IM to appoint a tree expert to monitor the works
As it turned out the works had already started in the absence of supervision by a tree expert and ERA had to intervene to force IM to appoint a tree expert to monitor the works

The Environment and Resources Authority has confirmed that Infrastructure Malta was in breach of permit conditions when it started works prior to the appointment of an arboricultural expert to supervise the works, as required by a nature permit issued in September 2019.

The permit obliged Infrastructure Malta to inform ERA on the dates of works seven days prior to their commencement.

IM was also obliged to nominate an experienced tree expert to monitor the transplanting works, 10 days before the commencement of work.

But it turns out that works had already started in the absence of supervision by a tree expert and ERA had to intervene to force IM to appoint a tree expert to monitor the works.

“As soon as ERA was informed that interventions were being carried out, ERA promptly inspected the intervened areas, verbally stopped Infrastructure Malta and requested the entity to regularise its position,” the ERA said.

It was only at this stage that IM “were asked to nominate the arboricultural expert, and IM subsequently nominated Peter Calleja, who was approved by the Authority.”

ERA failed to provide MaltaToday with the date when the expert was appointed.

It remains unclear whether ERA was even informed about the commencement of the works three weeks ago.

MaltaToday asked ERA to state the date when IM informed it on when the works were to commence. According to the permit IM had to inform ERA seven weeks before the commencement of the works.

The permit also states categorically that works could only start “once the final decision of the appeal (in front of the Environment and Review Tribunal) is communicated and the development permit for this project is final”.

But works were still commenced despite a pending court appeal against the decision of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal to confirm the permit issued in July.

ERA insists that following the decision by the EPRT on 7 November 2019 in which the original was confirmed, the “permit was considered final and executable”.

On Sunday, MaltaToday revealed that a cluster of protected almond trees in Attard had been uprooted instead of being transplanted as required by the permit.

In reply the ERA confirmed “deviations” from the permit issued last year, which it discovered during its monitoring of the project.

A spokesperson also confirmed that IM was now requesting a variation from the approved permit, to “address deviations”.

But it turns out that Infrastructure still has to submit a formal written application for these changes. When asked to provide MaltaToday with a copy of the application asking for deviation from the original permit, ERA replied that it has been “made aware” by IM that variations to the approved nature permit are being considered.

“However, as this is not a formal request, ERA has requested IM to send a duly filled in and signed application form requesting such variation.”

The Trees and Woodlands Regulations make it clear that deviations to nature permits affecting trees have to be filed in writing at least three weeks “prior to the carrying out of the activity”. In this case the application is being presented after a number of trees have been uprooted rather than being transplanted.

The ERA spokesperson added it is “constantly monitoring the interventions on site carried… and it is duly exercising its enforcement powers where non-observance of the permit conditions are noticed.”

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