Councils yet to claim over €28 million in planning gain funds

The money hails from 'planning gains' paid by developers as compensation to councils for the burden of development projects

Over €31 million in funds have been assigned by the Planning Authority (PA) to local councils to be used for community development projects.

The money hails from “planning gains” paid by developers as compensation to councils for the burden of development projects. A total €3 million has so far been committed but not yet paid out, and a staggering €28 million has yet to be committed.

Unsurprisingly, a list tabled in the House of Representatives highlighted the main areas in which the biggest development projects are planned, namely St Julian’s and Sliema which each showed uncommitted balances of €4 million each.

“The application processes are vetted by PA officers and submitted for endorsement by the Development Planning Fund Committee. If the project is deemed acceptable, a contract is signed between the respective proponent and the PA, determining the conditions of execution,” a spokesperson for the ministry for transport and planning said.

If, down the line, the PA deems that the project has been satisfactorily adhered to the conditions of the contract, payment can be affected.

The funding has three main sources: funds generated through the Commuted Parking Payments Scheme (CPPS) which is available only in defined areas; funds generated through the Urban Development Fund, which is found in the rest of the areas not covered by the previous scheme; and 20% of the income generated through the Building Regularisation scheme.

Significant projects with committed funds which are yet to be paid include restoration and maintenance works to concrete pavements and pedestrian areas in Valletta amounting to around €286,000, proposed replacement of existing asphalt surface with a paved one in Mellieha amounting to almost €300,000, and the refurbishment of a play area in Gzira amounting to €208,000.

“Contrary to previous procedures, all these funds are pooled into a single fund for each local council and the respective applications for PA funding are determined through the PA’s Development Planning Fund Committee,” the spokesperson said.

On average, the timeframe from submission of a complete application to the signing of the funding contract is between two to three months. “A complete submission drastically reduces the time from submission to the signing of the funding contract between the PA and the respective local council. However, this can vary substantially if the submission is incomplete, substandard or includes incorrect information. Hence the emphasis on pre-application discussions and the need to have applications which give sufficient information.”