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News | Wednesday, 10 March 2010 Issue. 154

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MEPA revising policy on penthouses

The planning policy which allows penthouses on three-storey apartment blocks, recently denounced by the Malta Resources Authority as one which limits Malta’s renewable energy potential, is among the policies currently being reviewed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, a spokesperson for the Authority confirmed.
The policy approved in April 2005 paved the way for penthouses on three-storey apartment blocks.
But according to a report recently presented to the European Commission by the Malta Resources Authority, this decision is now limiting Malta’s renewable energy potential.
“This resulted in a situation where most apartment residents have no access to the roof and hence have no adequate roof space to install solar water heaters,” a report presented by the MRA to the European Commission states.
Ironically the same policy approved by Minister George Pullicino when he was the Minister responsible for MEPA is now being questioned by the MRA, which now falls under his portfolio.
Pullicino declined to answer questions sent by MaltaToday on whether he could have foreseen the policy’s negative impact on Malta’s renewable energy potential, and whether this policy should now be changed.
But the policy on penthouses is once again being reviewed following the government’s decision to appoint a Mepa Policy Reform commission to streamline the various MEPA policies.
When asked whether the policy on penthouses will be changes a spokesperson for MEPA pointed out the Authority will be carrying out a review exercise on its policy documents, including DC2007, which is the document on the basis of which penthouses are regulated.
Back in 2005 environmental organisation Nature Trust had already objected to penthouse development as this would “take up precious space that could be used for solar energy production.”
Carmel Cacopardo, the Green Party’s spokesperson for sustainable development, now calls on MEPA to ensure that all newly constructed buildings are compelled to install solar water heaters.
“This may necessitate restrictions on the construction of penthouses as it would require access of owners of flats to roofs of multi-ownered properties,” Cacopardo told MaltaToday.
He also pointed out that whilst subsidies and incentives have been around for some time the uptake of solar water heaters is still very low.
Another problem cited in the MRA report is that irregular building patterns also mean that the sun rays are often shielded by higher neighbour’s buildings.
“The practice of changing permissible heights every so often has to stop as this will render useless investments in this field in buildings drawn into the shadows,” Cacopardo pointed out.
According to the MRA report another limiting factor on the development of renewable energy is the fact that one in every three dwellings in Gozo and one in every five in Malta are empty all year round.
According to the MRA document a solar water heater with a collector area of 2.5 square metres will save 1,500 kw/h.

Policy on microwind turbines out soon
MEPA also confirmed that the Planning Guidance for Micro Wind Turbines below 20kw is being finalised and will be presented to the MEPA board in the coming weeks.
The government offers a 30% grant capped at €750 on the purchase price of microwind turbines but in the absence of a planning policy, this grant still cannot be used.


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