Enforcement and local plans steal the show in PA budget debate

700 of 2,800 complaints registered in 2015 remain pending

Parliament voted in favour of a government motion to approve the 2016 budget estimates for the Planning Authority, with 36 votes in favour and 31 against.

Introducing the motion, parliamentary secretary for planning Deborah Schembri said it was imperative that the Planning Authority’s enforcement division strive to maintain the excellent record it has attained in the past years.

Having immediate enforcement on illegal development and public eyesores, such as illegal scrapyards and dumpsites, was of great value for the country as a whole, she said.

Schembri said that of 2,800 complaints registered in 2015, only 700 were still pending.

And in 271 cases, an enforcement notice had already been issued.

Opposition spokesperson Marthese Portelli called for collaboration among all stakeholders to ensure that a viable balance is reached between development and environment protection.

She said it was also high time that local plans be published and adhered to, without exception or recourse, a sentiment echoed by her PN colleague Censu Galea.

Winding up the debate, Schembri said the government had no intention of prolonging unnecessarily the introduction of local plans, but insisted the government wanted the process to be as thorough as possible.

She defended the drafting of master plans for particular localities, even with the introduction of local plans as these served different functions.

She also explained that, under the DC15 policy update, building height limits were now calculated solely in metres and not floors, and it was thus possible to include more floors in the same building height.

With 36 votes in favour and 31 against, parliament also approved the 2016 budget estimates for the Water Services Corporation, the Environment and Resources Authority.

By a similar count, the government defeated an opposition motion calling for Legal Notice 103/2016 – which introduced regulations on billboards and signage – to be repealed.

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