Architects flag potential abuse in proposed development notification order amendments

The Chamber of Architects has lamented on what it calls the Planning Authority’s ‘persistent ignoring of legal obligations’, speculating that PA was setting the way for unannounced development

The Chamber of Architects referred to the AFM maritime base as “the scar on the Valletta seafront”
The Chamber of Architects referred to the AFM maritime base as “the scar on the Valletta seafront”

The Chamber of Architects has objected to the Planning Authority’s proposal to introduce two new category classes to the to the Development Notification Order (DNO), covering development related to the Corradino Correctional Facility and the Malta Police Force, questioning the validity of the proposed criteria. 

A DNO is a legal notice that exempts a range of generally minor developments from full development permit application procedures, if these satisfy certain criteria. There are currently 19 category classes of permitted development which include internal alterations, roof structures and more.

Last month, the PA suggested that class 20 and 21 be added, allowing developments on land assigned to Corradino Correctional Facility and the Malta Police Force to be carried out. Under the proposal, if a development for the prison is located on a protected area or within a scheduled property, prior clearance by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage and by the Environment and Resources Authority would be needed. A proposed development must also be recommended by home affairs minister Michael Farrugia, who is responsible of the prison.

However, in a statement issued this morning, the Chamber of Architects lamented that Planning Authority failed to consult with “the primary stakeholders” directly, adding that the obligation for consultation with the Chamber of Architects and with the Chamber of Planners has been entrenched in planning legislation for decades, and has been reiterated in the recent Development Planning Act.

“This lack of correct procedure in pushing forward these amendments leaves no option but to speculate that these are being presented in order to facilitate some yet to be announced development which would not normally have been permitted without the checks and balances afforded by the Full Development Process,” the Chamber said.

According to the Chamber, the concept that whole classes of development are so important that they should be allowed without due process and oversight, illustrated a worrying and persisting ignorance of the purpose of development planning and planning control.

“It is important to ask why it is necessary for development carried out by the Director of the Corradino Correctional Facility and by the Malta Police Force to be undertaken through the DNO process rather than through a Full Development Application process or the Summary Application process, which is generally the norm for most types of new development,” the Chamber said.

It also noted that should the minister responsible for the Prisons or the Police deem the development to be “urgently required for national security reasons”, the development may proceed without even going through the DNO process.

The Chamber questioned how a development financed by public funds, that have to be approved in Parliament, and procured via normal procurement regulations, could be required with such urgency that it forgoes planning scrutiny and oversight.

Although the proposed amendments also oblige those concerned to obtain prior clearance from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and ERA in certain locations, the Chamber added, these proposed amendments create scope for abuse.

Referring to the Armed Forces base at Hay Wharf as “the scar on the Valletta seafront”, which is said to have been allowed to take place under the same regulation regime that is being proposed for the Prisons and the Police Force, the Chamber said that the base represented “a warning sign of what can happen when the floodgates are opened for unchecked development which takes place in our historic and natural landscapes.”

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