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Development permits double in five days before election

Just 10 applications rejected, 371 approved

Malta is currently heaving with construction.

Malta is currently heaving with construction.

The Planning Authority approved nearly double the average number of development permits in the five days before the general election, Times of Malta has learnt.

PA decisions analysed show that 371 development permits were approved between May 29 and June 2 – the most approved in any single week this year.

Only 10 applications were rejected over the five days, while a handful of others were withdrawn. In contrast, 456 permits were issued in the entire month of June 2016.

The only two weeks in May and June last year with five PA sittings (comparable to the pre-election week) saw just 120 and 80 permits approved, respectively.

The spike prior to the June 3 election followed a steady increase in the number of permits issued by the authority after the announcement of the general election on May 1, with an average of 245 approved each week since then. 

The figures must be seen in the context of the general increase in recent years

Reports have indicated that an average of 196 permits were issued every week from January up to the announcement.

A similar spike in permits was observed prior to the 2008 general election, but it was not repeated in 2013. The bureaucratic “nightmare” involved in obtaining planning permissions at the time would later be cited in the Nationalist Party report into its electoral defeat.

However, the 2017 figures must also be seen in the context of a general increase in the number of permits approved by the authority in recent years.

Times of Malta reported earlier this year that the number of approved ODZ permits was higher in 2016 than at any point in the last 11 years, with 745 developments last year compared to an average of 500 a year prior to that. 

Environmentalists have linked the increase to the introduction of new rural policy guidelines in 2014, but the government insists it is due to the scrapping of the summary Development Notification Order (DNO) procedure, such that minor developments that would not previously have required a full permit are now included in the figures.

The PA last year introduced a two-year amnesty scheme allowing illegal developments to be regularised against the payment of a fee instead of a full application for sanctioning.

The scheme drew criticism from environmental groups and the Kamra tal-Periti, while a former chairman of the Mepa Appeals Board described it as a form of “appeasement”.

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