The Malta Independent 11 December 2019, Wednesday

New construction legislation ‘was drafted to avoid penalising the development lobby’ - FAA

Monday, 24 June 2019, 12:27 Last update: about 7 months ago

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) has argued that the present draft of the revised construction regulations does not even begin to address many urgent issues and is in some ways a regression on the earlier law.

“The 2013 version of the law imposes the requirement of a geological investigation for every excavation deeper than three meters. However the amendment now states that a geotechnical design report may include a geotechnical investigation, if the architect deems it necessary. A geotechnical report looks at rocks purely from the point of view of the design of foundations. The geological investigation is more of an in-depth study of the rocks, their quality and stability, however that is no longer obligatory, and will in many cases be swept aside.”

The new regulations stipulate that any major decision taken on a building site should require the presence of both the architect and site manager, however that is undermined by the provision that in the absence of a site manager, his duties pass onto the architect, the FAA statement reads. 

“While the new regulations focus on increased supervision of works by the architect, there is less emphasis on the responsibility of contractors and no attempt to finally introduce the licensing of contractors, leaving the field open to people who have jumped on the bandwagon with no training whatsoever.”

“Likewise, there is no requirement for training of demolition contractors, crane operators, steel workers, concrete pourers, foreman, scaffolding erectors and excavators, a recipe for disaster given that these people would be unaware of the first signs of danger and press on, oblivious of the risks to themselves and others.”

FAA has long been calling for certification of heavy plant and equipment, the statement read.

“Most importantly, the new regulations have not incorporated or increased the Police law regarding leaving a distance of 76cm when excavating alongside a neighbouring wall. This is the cause of much of the damage to neighbouring properties when developers ignore this law in order to maximise basement space – at the risk of neighbours’ lives.”

“On what really matters - enforcement – this legislation is silent; if there is no commitment to increase resources for enforcement by the Building Regulations Office there will be no change.  Increasing insurance coverage to €750,000 is no consolation to residents of damaged blocks as it does not make up for the personal damages and trauma they experience.”

Given the high rate of expats working in the sector, the lack of an English version of these regulations and the one-week consultation period both violate the Aarhus Convention and the EU Directive on Access to Environmental Information, a lack of respect for our supposedly EU status, FAA said.                      

“By its failure to tackle the real issues, it is clear that this legislation was drafted to avoid penalising the development lobby, the very sector that has caused residents to fear for their safety in their own homes.”

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