Sunday, 9 March 2008

2,500 ODZ applications approved in two years

Article published in the Malta Independent on Sunday, 9th March 2008
2,500 ODZ applications approved in two years
by Catherine Polidano

Now that the politicians have had their say, I would be grateful if the media could help me, a common citizen, put the preservation of our countryside in centre stage.

Over the years, like many other Maltese, I have campaigned for sustainable development based on the planning policies of Malta’s Structure Plan and Local Plans. Despite such campaigns I have continued to witness the plunder of Malta’s remaining green areas.

Faced with ever-increasing destruction of the Outside Development Zone, I recently researched the two scourges of Malta’s countryside – Mepa permits granted to ODZ development, and Mepa sanctioning of ODZ illegal developments.

I obtained data from Mepa’s Public Relations Officer, for which I express my thanks, from Mepa’s web site. Put together, this data reveals a disturbing picture:

Between 2005 and 2007 Mepa granted a permit to over 2,500 developments in ODZ.

In 2007, Mepa “closed” 440 enforcement cases – by sanctioning 380 (73 per cent) of them!

While the Structure Plan does allow some, mainly agricultural, development outside the development zone, I find it hard to believe that some 2,500 reservoirs and farmhouses were built in the last three years. Very often, Mepa issues ODZ permits against the recommendations of its own case officers. Additionally, sanctioning the bulk of illegal developments is an injustice to law-abiding, ordinary citizens.

For these reasons, I have written to the Mepa Auditor, Perit Joseph Falzon asking him to investigate:

Whether Mepa acted in accordance with the planning policies, local plans and the Structure Plan in the issue of over 2,500 ODZ development permits;

Whether the high rate of illegal development sanctioning was made in accordance with the Development Planning Act, with Malta’s planning policies and with local plans.

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