No planning 4 tomorrow: Malta’s planning emergency

It is easy to feel despondent about planning in Malta. Many streets are turning into regiments of nondescript, forbidding blocks of flats. Urban sprawl has been steadily encroaching into the countryside. And policies have been systematically changed since 2015 to make it easier for developers to get their way, one way or the other, if not on the first try then on the second try.

This means we no longer have a planning system – instead we have a Planning Authority which simply grants permits after a box-ticking exercise without bothering itself with the business of planning, or with looking at the larger picture, or even the cumulative effect of blocks of flats on overwhelmed neighbourhoods.   

Most people are indeed disdainful of much of the kind of development that has been taking place. But politicians seem frozen in the face of planning reform out of fear of upsetting partial economic reliance on rampant development and fear of losing votes – and, not to be forgotten, fear of losing the flow of revenue from donations and advertising in party media from developers.   

Environmental NGOs have been fighting back with valiant determination, but they are battling against institutions that have been set up to favour developers – and their effort has only been spottily effective.

For example, NGOs have been increasingly appealing against contestable and contentious permits. But the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, which hears appeals against decisions taken by the Planning Authority, customarily allows developers to proceed with the construction even as the permit is appealed. This means that developments may be substantially completed by the time an appeal is decided.  

Read More: Buildings rise before appeals against them are decided

Even when it comes to possible revocations of permits, something that is envisaged in law, in 2019 an administrative fee of €500 for filing revocation proceedings was suddenly imposed, making it very costly and hence prohibitive for activists or NGOs to resort to revocation proceedings.

And we have not even talked about the failure of enforcement, with the Planning Authority as a rule unlikely to enforce its writ on unruly developers. At times it serves enforcement notices, but these then tend to languish in inaction. Other times it serves fines, but these fines then merely serve as absorbable business costs for large developers.

In this situation, a breakthrough can only be possible in a two-pronged battle – a battle to generate critical-mass opposition through investigative journalism, and a legal battle mounted in the courts to force through policy and legal reform.   

This website seeks to work towards the attainment of both, but your help is needed.

Investigate, expose and publish perverse permits

Investigative articles that seek to expose perverse granting of permits by the Planning Authority that will be published on this website

Empower creative legal action to disrupt perverse planning system

Do technical and legal research to help NGOs devise and citizens in legal battles in a bid to disrupt perverse granting of permits and force through reform.

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Contribute to help accomplish the two tasks listed in Actions above. Funding will also pay for promoting investigative articles on social media. 

Click on links below to read investigative articles in this section.  

Funding Target: €200 per month. 

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