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Mepa takes impartial and fair decisions

I refer to the letter ‘Bringing disgrace on Malta’ (The Sunday Times, January 6).

The case Mr and Mrs Besford refer to in their letter involved the renewal of a planning permit for the construction of three, one storey villas in Rabat. Planning permission for this development had originally been granted in 2004 when an outline permit was approved, followed by a full development permit issued in 2008, which permit is still valid until April 2013. Works on site started months ago in accordance with the approved full development permit.

During the public hearing, the Environment and Planning Commission noted the Planning Directorate’s position that there was no valid justification to refuse the renewal of the permit, since there were no changes in policies since the original full development permit was granted in 2008. The site on which the villas were permitted is not a white area but within the development boundary of Rabat and governed by Policy NWRS6.

Moreover, in accordance with the conditions of permit, the commission also noted that the whole site had undergone an extensive archaeological excavation monitored by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

Following the finalisation of the archaeological evaluation, the development layout was slightly amended so as to protect and conserve the features which were discovered. This was also approved by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. The Commission also ensured that the bank guarantee amounting to €159,096, to ensure adherence to the monitoring condition and as had been stipulated in the original permit, was kept.

Mr and Mrs Besford report that the commission at no point during the public meeting invited the numerous objectors present to voice their concerns. What the Besfords failed to say is that, at the start of the meeting there was consensus among the objectors present for Carmel Cacopardo to act as the spokesperson on their behalf.

At no point did the Commission prohibit any intervention from the floor. Had the Besfords requested to make additional comments, they would have been freely allowed to do so, as was Astrid Vella who also spoke up on behalf of FAA.

Finally, Mr and Mrs Besford can rest assured that, contrary to the statements made in their letter, all Mepa Board and Commission members assume full responsibility to take impartial and fair decisions within the framework of the law and after weighing carefully all related planning and environmental issues.

If any party is aggrieved by the decision taken by the Commission, an objector can always appeal to the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. It is rather surprising that no third party appeal was lodged following the approval of the outline permit in 2004, nor after the full permit was issued in 2008 or even following the approval of the renewal permit last November.

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