MEPA Watch | Sunday, 31 May 2009
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Robert Musumeci reacts to MaltaToday’s story on the Lidl permit close to the runway

Case Details
Last Sunday, MaltaToday carried a story on the Luqa Lidl Supermarket. The Lidl supermarket is located close to the runway in a so-called red zone. Our journalist revealed that a notice board was placed on site advising the general public that the area in question is located within the direct path of low flying aircrafts, adding further that consequently, the general public is exposed to substantial health and safety risks, particularly in the event of an aircraft accident.
The Lidl permit was issued way back on 25th April 2007. The case officer had recommended that the permit should be granted even though the area falls within the direct path of flying aircrafts. Notwithstanding, an application to erect a one storey small terraced house in the vicinity, yet less closer to the runway, was refused recently by the DCC on the pretext that the latter site was considered to be a red zone in terms of aircraft safety. When the latter application was discussed before the DCC, the Chairman was specifically asked to delve into the matter as to why different standard restrictions were now being adopted – yet strangely enough, she expressly declined to probe into this matter under review.
Robert Musumeci’s observations
LN 80 of 2004 provides that when low flying aircraft, or taxiing aircraft  at or near an aerodrome,  are likely to be hazardous to people or vehicular traffic, the aerodrome operator is obliged to post hazard warning notices on any public way that is adjacent to the maneuvering area. The same legal notice underlines that in the event that a public way is not controlled by the aerodrome operator, (such as the grounds of the Lidl supermarket), the operator is obliged to inform the authority responsible for posting the notices on the public way that there is a hazard.
Thus, it immediately follows that the erected signs at the Lidl supermarket were posted in observance to the said legal provisions. In the meantime, it should be noted that when the MEPA spokesman was interviewed by the MaltaToday journalist, there was no hint that MEPA is contemplating the revocation of the Lidl permit on the grounds that the Lidl permit was issued in breach of an error on the face of the record which offends the law or that the resulting development is a threat to public safety.
This is being said because Article 39A of the Development Planning Act states the following:
(1) ‘The Authority may, only in the cases of fraud or where public safety is concerned or where there is an error on the face of the record, by order revoke or modify any development permission granted under this Act, stating in such order its reasons for so doing. The same section further provides that prior to deciding to revoke or modify a development permission in terms of this subarticle, the Authority shall inform the person who will be affected by its decision of the date and time of its meeting where the Authority shall also hear the said person’s submissions if the latter opts to attend.’
On an equal significant note, it is to be noted that the MEPA spokesman did not make any reference to MEPA having any intentions to issue a discontinuance order and compensate the owner in terms of Article 45 of the Development Planning Act. Article 45 (1,2) of the Development Planning Act states that the Authority may, having regard to the development plans, planning policies and to other material considerations, by notice served on the owner or occupier of any land, require any existing use or activity or any works to be discontinued or any building, plant, equipment or other thing whatsoever to be removed from any land, or requiring both such discontinuance and removal. Where a discontinuance or removal order is made in respect of an activity, works or use, or of a building, plant, equipment or other thing lawfully carried on or in existence on the land mentioned in the notice before the commencement of this Act, or which was started or came into existence after the commencement of this Act in accordance with a development permission under this Act, the Authority shall be liable to pay compensation for any losses sustained as a result of the notice)
It consequently follows that in the event that the relevant authorities do not take the initiative and request the revocation of the Lidl permit or the discontinuance of the supermarket operations in terms of Article 39A or Article 45 of the Development Planning Act, MEPA is not to blame for issuing the Lidl permit in breach of active legislation. MEPA should only be held accountable for failing to issue other permits in the vicinity, despite being of a much minor scale.

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