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Anna Mallia | Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Learn, readers. Learn

If you are having a hard time with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, here are some tips that you can quote to remind MEPA that everybody is equal before the MEPA boards

Do you want to build in a villa site and maximise the use of land?
Do not worry because MEPA has given permission for development to take place without the 6-metre side curtilage that is allowed by law. The law says that you have to leave a 6-metre side curtilage, but the law gives the Development Control Commission the discretion to approve any application even it goes against the law.
In villa sites, the law allows you to build one habitable unit. But do not worry, MEPA has given permission to build two habitable units.
If MEPA tells you that you have to establish the site profile because by law you can only build three metres above the height established by this site profile, something that is compulsory in a villa site, challenge it; as they have authorised buildings notwithstanding that such site profile has not been done by the applicant.
And if they tell you that the road has to be formed (vehicular access is the term they use), take it easy because they have approved developments notwithstanding that the road has not been formed.
So if you think that you live in a villa area, do not be so sure about that because although that’s how it is on paper and according to the local plan in your area, you may discover that the DCC is giving out permits which go against the conditions of the permit for a villa site.

Are you worried about sanctions for building an additional floor?
Do not worry. All you have to do is to close the basement and remove the stairs that lead to it and for MEPA, this infringement of the permit is sanctioned. Believe it or not this is the way it goes for enforcement officer Anthony Baldacchino, who testified under oath in court lately that once you remove the stairs and close all the apertures in the basement, MEPA stops to consider that as an additional floor and your permit will be automatically sanctioned.
So dear readers, do not worry: build an additional floor, close all access to it, wait until you have all the utilities and then you can do what the hell you want.

Have you got a country home, and do you want to build an additional floor?
Even to this, MEPA has a solution for you. Just apply for a washroom and the permit will be granted to you. You are right in telling me that this applies only to people who actually live in these homes and not for those who merely go there on vacation, because the rule says that in outside development zones washrooms are allowed only to people who reside there. Do not bother because MEPA will not make any enquiries as to whether you are registered as living there, whether you have your identity card number on that address.
Just apply for a washroom and then utilise it as you wish because they do not bother.

Have you made a mistake in your application by stating that you are the owner of the site that is going to be developed?
Why bother? Just make a backdated board resolution if the site actually belongs to a limited liability company and it will be sanctioned. MEPA’s Board of Appeal has sanctioned such a resolution even if they apply retrospectively for years, not days or months.
And if the land belongs to a physical person, just do the same thing and tell him to give you a backdated authorisation.
Mind you, MEPA only acts upon false declarations if it receives a complaint; for MEPA you can apply for development at the President’s Palace because they do not bother to require proof of title. For all that matters, without you knowing it, you can find that your property is covered by a MEPA permit.
But even if you prove to MEPA that the applicant made a false declaration, that is not a big deal for MEPA because they have taken the line that unless such a false declaration does not have an impact on the permit, there is nothing illegal about it. That is as far as MEPA goes.

Do you want to flout the distance limit between the dividing wall?
You do not have to, because although the law says that you have to keep the distance of two-and-a-half feet from the boundary wall if you are going to excavate, such law is not required by MEPA. So you can submit plans with excavations right up to the boundary wall (if not under it as well) and MEPA will not care if you are going to cause damage to the neighbours and to the neighbours’ property.
Neither will it care if your neighbours lose part of their property when they come to develop, because it will not be safe to excavate right up to the dividing wall.

Make DCC board members and enforcement officers personally accountable. The flexibility provided by law to the DCC board members does not allow them to use that flexibility against MEPA rules. In the case of the villa site I referred to you above, if side curtilage is 6 metres according to law, the DCC which approved a site curtilage of 3 metres acted in favour of their flexibility but against the law.
Ensure that all applications are covered with proof of title. We cannot continue to allow development to occur on sites that do not belong to their rightful owners. This also applies to government land. We all know how shops and establishments pertaining to the government change
hands without the government’s knowledge and MEPA authorises these developments although the application is illegal.
So now we have a situation where the government is saying that it wants to cut encroachment but at the same time, we have another government, this time MEPA, which is blessing this encroachment by granting permits notwithstanding that the applicants cannot do so at law.
Third parties must be given more rights to protect their property and architects must have their warrants taken if they submit false declarations or false plans in order to accommodate their clients.
At MEPA, you can find a way of how to get away with murder!



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