New regulations on excavation and construction not enough, Malta Chamber of Planners warns

The Malta Chamber of Planners said that new regulations alone are not enough to address the current problems with the construction industry and particularly the safety of adjacent properties

New regulations on excavation and construction are not enough to address the current construction problems, the Malta Chamber of Planners said on Wednesday.

The Chamber said, that while it welcomed new regulations on excavation and construction practices, it insisted that such regulations alone are not enough to address the current problems with the construction industry and particularly the safety of adjacent properties.

“The Chamber is of the opinion that the legislation on its own will not resolve the problem that this rush to construct has created. The legislation defines the responsibilities and what procedure is required to be followed by the parties concerned to ensure safety to properties adjacent to construction sites,” the statement read.

The chamber said that all precautionary measures should be taken to protect the third party from damage and exposure to the elements. “The Regulations should promote a precautionary approach for all types of demolition and excavation works on site, irrespective of the distance between such works and adjacent properties/walls.”

It said that such an approach should also be promoted in particular areas or situations where geotechnical instability of the ground is very likely, such as properties in close proximity to ridge edges, caves, clay areas and others.

“As soon as work starts it is important that a completion date is set since it is unacceptable to leave sites excavated or in a state of abeyance for more than one calendar month,” the chamber advised. It said that the government should also consider reducing the validity of planning permits to ensure that construction projects that have commenced are actually finished and the sites do not remain under development for more than is necessary.

It also advised that as soon as damages to adjacent properties are reported, works on the construction site should stop until the necessary site investigations are carried out and the or and or risks are addressed. “Full compensation should be given and if the case arises alternative and equivalent accommodation given to third parties, until completion of works.”

The chamber said workers should also have a working knowledge of tools, equipment and machinery used on site, “and have basic knowledge of the best work practices".

All demolition and excavation works (including the handling and use of related machinery/equipment) should be carried out by licensed persons/companies, insured against third-party liabilities in case of damages, the planners said.

The Chamber said prior to the commencement of works on site, the method statement should be forwarded to the relevant neighbours for a one-week consultation.

“The Chamber of Planners also proposes the setting up of a Construction Appeals Tribunal, composed of an Architect / Structural Engineer, a Lawyer and a Geologist. Works would have to stop once a case is filed with the Appeals Tribunal and a decision should be delivered by not later than two months from the filing of the appeal.”

The chamber said it “once again reiterates the importance of proper planning and a level of construction activity that can be managed".

It said that the Prime Minister himself said that a number of architects do not visit the sites. “This may be because they cannot cope with the work they accept to take up with the consequence that the onsite builders take decisions which should be taken by the architect.

"This is a practice that has been going on for years and owners will have to regularise their property when the property is not in line with the approved plans as a result of builders going ahead without the architect’s consent," the Chamber said.

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