Mepa Reform Update
The Authority has carried out a number of changes to the Development Planning (Procedure for Applications and their Determination) Regulations aimed at ensuring greater efficiency and improving the level of service for its customers.
Among the key changes introduced are reduced processing timeframes for ‘simple’ planning applications which fall within Urban Conservation Areas (UCAs) or Outside Development Zones (ODZs) from 26 to 12 weeks. Internal developments and proposed development within Industrial Zones of a certain scale will be processed within 12 weeks. The processing period for extensions to tourist accommodation, sports facilities, hospitals and schools with a floor area not exceeding 250m² has also been reduced from 26 to 12 weeks. These changes will not effect or compromise the 20 day objection period or any consultation that are required.
To ensure further consistency, the Authority has modified its regulations to ensure that any proposed development that is permissible through the simple process of a Development Notification Order (DNO) will also be acceptable through the Minor Amendment procedure. The Authority has also removed the procedure whereby a planning permit gets automatically dismissed should a bank guarantee or fine not get paid within 6 months of the decision date. The Authority will still ensure that these payments are made by the applicant prior to the commencement of works on site.
An amendment has also been made in that, during the Christmas shutdown period, submissions related to planning application can still be made, even though the legal timeframes provisions will remain suspended.
Dr Stafrace said “We can today safely say that the main changes that were introduced in January 2011 to the development control process are reaching the objectives we had set out through the MEPA Reform. In 2011, not only have we started receiving higher quality proposals through the introduction of the screening process but we have also managed to ensure that 99.4% of applications were dealt with within the established timeframe.” “Over the coming months, as an Authority, we will be focusing our efforts on improving and facilitating better interaction between our stakeholders and our staff to achieve higher quality standards. We recognise that a high quality planning service cannot be solely measured by the speed of decision-making but is more about finding quality solutions that are sustainable and a safeguard to our environment.” Dr Stafrace concluded.