MEPA Watch | Sunday, 30 May 2010

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Robert Musumeci’s analysis of MEPA decisions

A warrant of prohibitory injunction against MEPA
Last week, it was reported in the media that a local court had ordered MEPA to refrain from amending the Central Malta Local plan after it upheld a request for a warrant of prohibitory injunction filed by a certain Mario, Pauline and Malcolm Mallia.
The Mallias felt aggrieved after a 2004 MEPA application to build apartments and underlying garages on a piece of land in St Francis Street and Gabriel Street in Balzan was turned down by the MEPA Board. According to the approved Central Local Plan, the said proposal is located in an area where terraced housing or maisonettes are allowed to be built on three floors. In actual fact, the Directorate had recommended that the application be approved amid strong objections from neighbouring residents, insisting that the proposed three-storey complex of apartments would obliterate the visual characteristics of the area.
In reaction, the Board went against the Directorate’s recommendation and refused the request in June 2009. Following the issue of the refusal report, the Mallias filed a planning appeal before the Planning Appeals Board which is to be heard next month. In the meantime, the Mallias found out that the Authority planned to amend the Central Local Plan in such way that only detached villas are permitted in the area under review. Once the Local Plan is modified, the Planning Appeals Board would have to decide according to the amended provisions, and not in accordance with the planning provisions which were applicable during the time of submission or first decision. In other words, the Planning Appeals Board would be compelled to confirm MEPA’s decision on the basis of the amended local plan provisions (even though the MEPA Board have purportedly decided against the local plan provisions applicable at the time of decision).
The Mallias have signaled their objections to the Courts through a request for a warrant of prohibitory injunction, insisting that once the local plan is revised, their pending case before the Planning Appeals Board would be prejudiced. Interestingly, the Courts issued a temporary warrant of prohibitory injunction banning MEPA from amending the Local Plan, claiming that at face value, it appears that the Mallias could suffer extensive damages.
With the proposed MEPA reform, the public at large was expecting that planning policies are not modified during the application process to the detriment of prospective developers.

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