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Family unable to use gas tank as regulators ‘are taking their time’

Jonathan Camilleri Bowman has not been able to use the gas system at his house for almost a year as he waits for the planning authority to clarify its policy on such domestic installations. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Jonathan Camilleri Bowman has not been able to use the gas system at his house for almost a year as he waits for the planning authority to clarify its policy on such domestic installations. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

A man who invested €12,000 in an underground gas tank to heat his Attard home is irritated because he says the authorities are taking their time to issue regulations that would finally allow him to use the system.

Jonathan Camilleri Bowman had installed the 1,000 litre tank, which stores liquid petroleum gas, beneath his front garden after getting the necessary certification from the Malta Resources Authority.

Despite this, he and his family have not been able to use the heating system since January when the Malta Environment and Planning Authority issued an enforcement notice on grounds he did not have a permit for the tank, he explained.

After bouncing from one regulator to the other for almost a year, Mr Camilleri Bowman was recently informed by Mepa the enforcement notice was put “on hold” until amendments were made to the development notification order (DNO) regulations.

The amendments would exempt domestic gas tanks below a certain size from needing a full permit. Instead, owners would inform Mepa through a DNO, Mr Camilleri Bowman explained.

A Mepa spokesman said the changes would be made “imminently” and were at the legal office before they were approved by the Mepa board. He could not give details of the amendments at this stage.

Mr Camilleri Bowman is calling on the authorities to publish the regulations as soon as possible. He has also written various letters to the Prime Minister and to the Resources Minister to try and solve this situation.

“I want immediate action. It’s true things seem to be moving in my favour but I don’t want to be the guinea pig so the authorities get their act together... Why didn’t Mepa issue enforcement action against others who have gas tanks like mine,” he asked, listing establishments having such tanks.

He is irritated at the way in which the authorities handled his case and forced him, his wife and their two children to live without their gas system for almost a year.

The tank, about the size of a regular water tank, supplies gas to their cooker and a boiler used to heat the house. As the weather gets cooler, he hopes the authorities will solve the issue in time to heat his home.

Mr Camilleri Bowman installed his tank last November and, after it was inspected by an MRA engineer, the authority gave the go-ahead to the gas supplier to fill up his tank in January, according to documents seen by The Times.

After a neighbour complained about the tank, that same month Mr Camilleri Bowman received an enforcement notice from Mepa informing him he did not have a permit and had to apply for a change of use of his front garden.

Mr Camilleri Bowman appealed the enforcement action before the Mepa board and the case is still pending. He argued that Mepa did not have policy guidelines for gas tanks and he had fulfilled all the MRA requirements.

Meanwhile, MRA instructed the supplier to stop filling his tank. Sometime later, he was informed by the police he would be charged with failing to abide by the Mepa enforcement notice, even though his appeal was still pending.

When he informed Mepa about the court case, he was told, through correspondence, that the authority never instructed the police to take the matter to court.

Mr Camilleri Bowman also filed a judicial protest against Mepa and the police arguing they were acting illegally as he had all his papers in order and the necessary MRA approval and certification.

Now that the enforcement notice has been put on hold he is not sure what will happen when he turns up for the court case on October 26.

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