Rise in planning permits leads to new ‘ODZ commission’

Five new recruits increase PA salary bill by €272,000

The board responsible for ODZ permits is still chaired by PA deputy chairman Elizabeth Ellul, the brains behind the authority’s rural policy approved in 2014
The board responsible for ODZ permits is still chaired by PA deputy chairman Elizabeth Ellul, the brains behind the authority’s rural policy approved in 2014

The increase in planning permits has prompted the Planning Authority to recruit five new full-time board members and to reintroduce a dual system, with one planning commission responsible for permits issued in outside development zones (ODZ) and village cores, and another responsible for other permits in less sensitive areas.

The board responsible for ODZ permits is still chaired by PA deputy chairman Elizabeth Ellul, the brains behind the authority’s rural policy approved in 2014. She has served on PA boards since 2008.

The other commission is chaired by architect Simon Saliba, a former Labour candidate. A separate commission chaired by Martin Camilleri remains responsible for regularisation permits.

The addition of new board members and a new commission chairperson will increase the authority’s salary bill by €272,478.
For the past few years all planning permits, except those for major projects which are issued by the PA board, have been issued by a planning commission chaired by Elizabeth Ellul, which also included architects Mariello Spiteri and Simon Saliba after the PA discarded a previous system of dual boards.

A spokesperson for the PA explained that the decision to add another commission was a result of the increase in the number of planning applications. All commission members are still being appointed on a full-time basis and “are forbidden from carrying out private practice”.
This system was introduced through the planning reform of 2011 to cases of conflict of interests like having board members present applications on behalf of clients.

The remuneration package of the three planning commission chairpersons consists of a basic salary of €39,226 and a number of allowances and benefits which increase the salary to €59,598 – a car allowance of €3,029, a petrol allowance of €1,980, a mobile phone allowance of €815, a telephone allowance of €512.46, a non-pensionable general expense allowance of €8,152, a non-pensionable allowance of €5,884 and a comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme.

Members and supplementary members are paid €33,680, which increases to €53,220 with various allowances. All previous commission members were re-confirmed in office.

Who are the board members?

Ellul’s board is now limited to permits in the ODZ and urban conservation areas (OCAs) and includes two new members: architect Claude Mallia, and Anthony Borg, who has a degree in planning. Mallia served on various planning boards including the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee and the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal.

He was also recently chosen through a direct order as the architect for the government’s Ta’ Kandja shooting range.

The other board chaired by Saliba includes architects Anthony Camilleri – previously a substitute member – and Mariello Spiteri, the owner of Environmental Managment Design and Planning, a planning consultancy engaged in environmental studies whose present clients include government privatisation arm Projects Malta. Spiteri does not participate in decisions on applications submitted by his company.

A third board chaired by Martin Camilleri is responsible for the regularisation scheme through which the authority regularises minor illegalities in urban areas against the payment of a fine. This board also includes biologist and tree expert Charles F. Grech and Stephania Baldachino, who has a degree in environmental studies.

Each board includes a supplementary member who serves in the board whenever one of its members is indisposed. These include Carmel Caruana on the ODZ board, and architect Mireille Fsadni who serves on the board chaired by Saliba. Frankie Ivan Caruana Catania, who is specialised in agriculture, serves on the regularisation board.

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