The Malta Independent 4 June 2020, Thursday

Updated: Covid-19 - Minister says Planning Authority public meetings cancelled

Monday, 23 March 2020, 18:07 Last update: about 3 months ago

Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia said on Monday that the Planning Authority's public meetings have been cancelled following discussions with the health authorities and stakeholders. 

Controversy erupted on Monday after the PA said the Planning Board and Planning Commission meetings scheduled for Thursday would go ahead. 

Following an angry reaction by NGOs and environmentalists, the PA said it would decide on whether the Planning Board meeting would be held after consulting with the health authorities. It said, however, that the Planning Commission meeting would go ahead, althouigh all necessary health safeguards would be put in place.

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Earlier this month, the authority had said all meetings were to be suspended due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation. 

What was on the agenda?

There are four applications scheduled to be heard before the Board on Thursday, including an application to sanction illegal excavations at a site in Qawra in a project by Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli, the construction of a 14-storey tower in Ta' Xbiex and the construction of an 18-storey tower as part of the MIDI project in Tigne.

Following a complaint by independent candidate Arnold Cassola, the Commissioner for Environment and Planning, Perit Alan Saliba, said he was surprised by reports that the PA Board's Thursday meeting was to go ahead.  

The Commissioner said that, whilst expecting the Authority to follow its own notices and the official sanctions and not hold any meetings until further notice, he was copying in the Environment and Planning Minister, Aaron Farrugia, on this "very serious matter."

Heritage NGO Din l-Art Helwa slammed the decision to hold the Planning Board meeting, saying the decision was "unacceptable in the current circumstances."

It said objectors and members of the  public "are essentially being left to choose between jeopardising their own health, as well as of their loved ones, and losing their right to safeguard their interests, since these rights will be prejudiced through the processing of these cases in their absence."

DLH said it also "finds such strain being put on all other interested parties, including the PA board members themselves, unacceptable."

Meetings cancelled - Minister

In a tweet on Monday evening, Minister Farrugia said the meetings have been cancelled. Farrugia said he had taken note of the reactions to the PA's decision to go ahead with the meetings. 

"Following discussions with the State Advocate, Prof. Charmaine Gauci, and the Chamber of Architects, PA public meetings will be cancelled until a regulatory framework is adopted within the parameters of the law and health directives in the context of these extraordinary times," he said.

 


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