NEWS | Sunday, 14 October 2007

After Ramla l-Hamra, Santa Marija Estate?

James Debono

Just a week after revoking the Ramla l-Hamra permit, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has opened a public consultation to amend two controversial local plan policies which allowed the development of apartments on part of the Santa Marija Estate villa area.
The re-zoning of this part of the Santa Marija Estate had been carried out without any public consultation before it was deemed questionable by MEPA Auditor Joe Falzon and Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino in two separate reports.
The re-zoning is currently subject to an investigation by the European Commission on the way local plans were approved in 2006.
In his report, Said Pullicino questioned the legal advice given to Environment Minister George Pullicino that no public consultation was required to change the zoning of the area, insisting that MEPA had been very restrictive in its interpretation of the law.
The Development Planning Act allows MEPA to carry out minor modifications “not affecting the substance of the plan” – such as a change in zoning – before the two-year period required to make more substantial changes.
The North West local plan identifies a part of Santa Marija Estate to act as a “transition zone” between apartment blocks belonging to Tumas Group approved in 2004, and the Santa Marija bungalow zone. In so doing MEPA paved the way for more intensive development in the “transition zone”.

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