The Malta Independent 21 January 2018, Sunday

Planning Authority categorically denies party donors’ influence on planning permits

Julian Bonnici Monday, 1 January 2018, 09:45 Last update: about 19 days ago

The Planning Authority has categorically denied that planning decisions are influenced by donations given to political parties.

The Malta Independent had sent questions after it transpired that the Labour Party in 2016 received €80,000 in donations from construction companies.

The PL had also received a €20,000 donation from individuals who have since been granted a permit to develop a fuel station on ODZ land in Marsascala.

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“All planning decisions taken by the Planning Board are not only taken in public, but subject to the highest levels of transparency and accountability,” a spokesperson said.

The Malta Independent on Sunday reported last week that in the case of the Marsascala fuel station, the Planning Board had steamrolled over the negative recommendations and votes of Environmental & Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiak and NGO representative Annick Bonello when approving the development that had had a positive recommendation from the Planning Directorate. The PN has thus far not commented on this particular issue and the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects has directed the newsroom to the parliamentary secretary, who is yet to reply to questions sent.

Out (In) side the Development Zone

Tellingly, with 9,194 approved applications since the term’s inception in 1993, development on ODZ land has seemingly become the new norm.

A study authored by Paul Caruana Galizia, from the London School of Economics, and Matthew Caruana Galizia, from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, (from which the aforementioned figure was pulled) has even found evidence of ‘political corruption’ at the PA due to high number of ODZ permit approvals correlating with the electoral cycle.

Further evidence of this are the 745 developments in ODZ areas that were approved in 2016 alone. This number only appears to be growing with 269 permits issued within the first three months of 2017, while a further 153 were issued during the electoral campaign alone.

The newsroom also sent questions as to whether the whole system requires reform. A PA spokesperson said: “The authority would like to point out that while it firmly believes that ODZ land should wherever possible remain free from development not all ODZ areas should fall within the same classification.

“There are certain land uses such as fuel stations, fireworks factories and other uses which cannot be entertained in the development zone for obvious reasons.

“Additionally not all ODZ areas are the same. There is land within this category which is virgin or agricultural, but there are also other areas including areas of containment (industrial use), rural settlements, and quarries which are sited within the ODZ. Therefore each case and application needs to be accessed according to the existing planning policies and the SPED to determine whether it is permissible or not to be sited within ODZ.”

 

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