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Planning

What is Development Control?
What should I do before submitting an application?
How do I submit an application?
What happens to my application?
What can I do during the processing of the application?
How long will it take?
Who will make the decision?
How are decisions made?
What decision can be made?
What can I do if I do not agree with the decision?
How can I find out that an application has been submitted?
Where can I inspect an application?
To which information can I gain access?
Can I comment on an application?
How can I comment on an application?
What comments can I make?
What is a planning related issue?
What happens once I have passed on my comments?
How are applications decided?
What are the Development Control Commissions?
How often do the DCCs meet?
Are meetings open to the public?
May I speak up during the DCC Board meeting?
What happens after the DCC meeting?
Do these procedures apply to the MEPA Board meeting?
Can I appeal against a decision on an application for development permission?
How do I make a request for reconsideration?
What are the fees for Requests for Reconsiderations and Appeals?

What is Development Control?

Development Control is a process which regulates the development and use of land.  It is one of the major tasks of MEPA.  It involves considering applications for development permission, monitoring development as it takes place, and taking action where illegal development has occurred.
The aim of the whole process is to ensure that the changes which take place in our environment are acceptable.  In practice this often means finding a balance between the need for change and the desire to conserve or protect the character of towns, villages and the countryside.


What should I do before submitting an application?

The Planning Directorate positively welcomes and encourages discussions between intending applicants, their architects and planning officers before applications are submitted (pre-application or pre-submission discussions).

Such discussions can

• Improve the quality of applications
• Ensure that applications can be dealt with speedily
• Inform applicants about relevant policies, requirements and other considerations which will have a bearing on how the application will be decided
• Allow applicants to revise or amend their proposals to conform to planning policies
• Inform applicants in those cases where their proposals are unacceptable and unlikely to be approved.

The Planning Director should be approached formally and an appointment should always be made with the appropriate officer delegated by the Director of Planning, beforehand .

Advice given at this stage will generally be accurate and objective, and dependent on information provided by the applicant or architect.  However it cannot be taken as binding the Authority or the Directorate to a particular decision, although an opinion about the merits of a proposal may be given.


How do I submit an application?

In almost all cases, applications should be submitted by an architect.  Applications which do not need to be submitted by an architect include those where there are no building works or structural alterations.  However, it is suggested that in all cases you contact MEPA Front Desk for advice. MEPA has placed officers at the disposal of the public to give such advice.

Details on the different application forms and the information which should be provided with an application are set out in the Planning Directorate’s Guidance Notes for Architects.  If you require further guidance you should contact the Front Desk.


What happens to my application?

Your application will go through most, if not all, of the following stages:

• Initial vetting and checking to ensure that the correct application has been submitted, that the forms are correctly completed, that the appropriate certification has been completed, that the necessary plans, drawings and photos have been submitted, and that the Building Levy paid is correct;

• Acknowledgment of the application;

• Details of the application placed in the public register;

• Site notice posted, and application published in a newspaper;

• Application will be assigned to an Area Team (depending on its geographical location) and to the corresponding case officer;

• Consultations with Government departments and other entities are carried out;

• The application site may be visited by the case officer dealing with your application;

• Your application eveluated in the light of the relevant policies in the Structure Plan, zoning and other limitations of the Temporary Provisions Schemes, and any other relevant policies or standards (such as car parking provisions);

• The case officer may contact you for further information or for amendments to your proposal where these are necessary


What can I do during the processing of the application?

On submitting an application it would be wise to start using the My Planning and My Status services. These services provide information through the internet or through the mobile phone each time there is a development on your application. You will receive an SMS or an email informing you of the nature of the development.

You may also contact the Planning Directorate to enquire about the progress of your application.  While we enjoy servicing our clients, it would be wise to limit such calls to what is really necessary and deal with any other issues through email. Time spent answering calls is time less on an application.   You may also give any supporting information which you feel is necessary or important to your case.  You should, of course, ensure that your architect replies quickly and accurately to any information requests or other correspondence which may be received on your application.


How long will it take?

The Planning Directorate has eight weeks to finalize a recommendation on an application.  The acknowledgement which you receive will give the date by which a decision by the Deciding Board or Commission should be made.

However, the length of time an application will take to decide may also depend on a number of factors. The main factor in delays in finalizing a report on an application is slow response to requests for consultation or information. While the client may help by ensuring that all requested information is given as speedily as possible, the delay may be caused from sources beyond MEPA’s control.  Major complex applications or those which need revision or further information may take longer.  If this is likely you will be asked to agree to give further time for considering your application.

Who will make the decision?

This will depend on the nature of your proposal.  Major applications of national significance or those subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment are decided by the MEPA Board.

Minor applications, such as extensions, are delegated to the Directorate’s officers to decide.

The applications which fall between these two extremes are decided by the Development Control Commissions (DCCs). 


How are decisions made?

Decisions made by the DCCs or by the MEPA Board are taken in public, which anyone may attend. Should a person wish to make a verbal contribution, s/he should signal to the Chairperson such an intention. It is up to the Chairperson to decided whether to accept the submission or not. 

Delegated decisions are taken by the planning officers at the appropriate stage in the processing of an application and are legally regulated. Such decisions are taken in applications which are straightforward and for which no objections have been filed. The application will still be vetted and endorsed by the DCC to ensure that the officer with the power of delegation has followed policy and procedure.
 Both the DCC and MEPA Board are guided by reports prepared by the case officer which set out the details of the proposed development and the relevant policies and other considerations, and which make a recommendation on the decision which may be made. 

However all decisions are taken on the basis of whether the proposal complies with
• Structure Plan policies
• Local Plan policies
• Other policies and planning guidance such as the Policy & Design Guidance

Particular attention is given to proposals which fall within those areas which are designated by the Structure Plan as being of special value or interest, including Rural Conservation Areas; Areas of Archaeological Importance, and Urban Conservation Areas. 

Where developments are likely to have significant environmental effects, the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment may be required.  MEPA will consider the impact of the proposal on the environment and will balance the needs of the applicant against the effect of a development on a national scale.


What decision can be made?

The DCC or MEPA Board may accept the case officer’s recommendation or they may depart from it and make a different decision.

A number of decisions can be made

• Approval with conditions (these are usually imposed on permissions)
• Refusal (the reasons for refusal will be specified in full)
• Deferral  (to obtain further information or for a specifically cited reason)

Where a final decision is made, the client will receive a notice setting out the decision, including any conditions. 


What can I do if I do not agree with the decision?

Where an application is refused or is approved with conditions which you feel are unacceptable or unreasonable, you may either
• Request the DCC (or MEPA Board ) to reconsider the decision or
• Appeal to the Appeals board

It is important to note that there are time frames for such requests to be made and if these are not respected, then the request will not be valid. 


 
How can I find out that an application has been submitted?

Applications are publicised in a number of ways

• Details of all new applications are contained in a register of applications

• Notices are posted on site

• Weekly lists of all applications appear on Saturday’s newspaper (currently The Malta Independent)

• A list of all applications will be available at Local Councils’ Offices


Registry of applications:

Information about planning applications is available for the general public at MEPA’s reception area during office hours. 

The public may inspect or check about an application either by calling at MEPA’s offices or through the website on http://www.mepa.org.mt/

Site Notices:

Notices are placed on site for all applications.  These notices contain all relevant details as specified above.  A time limit is set and indicated for the submission of comments by third parties.  It is important that all comments are received prior to this date. 

Weekly Newspaper:

Brief details of all applications received during the week are also advertised in the local press. 


Where can I inspect an application?

All relevant information stated above is available at the reception area at St. Francis Ravelin.  For ease of reference quote the permit application reference number. 


To which information can I gain access?

One could inquire and gain information about the following:

• Name and address of architect responsible of application
• Site plan
• Drawings
• Recommendation
• Development Planning Application report (DPAR)
• Any other document which is considered to be available to the public; such as EIA and TIS

You can see the application form and plans, and where the application is a major one, at any supporting statements or additional information submitted by the applicant.  However, you will not be shown any confidential correspondence in the file, including any consultation responses from other entities, although the case officer may summarise some points to you.


Can I comment on an application?

Anyone can send comments.  There is no need to be directly involved with an application to send your views or comments.


How can I comment on an application?

You can do so in writing by quoting the application reference number and refer to the site location.  Letters shall be addressed to the Director of Planning, Planning Directorate, P.O. Box, Floriana CMR 01.

All correspondence should be sent and received by the Directorate within 2 weeks of the site or newspaper notice.

Moreover, you can also send your comments through the website, by logging into the corresponding application number.

You may also wish to discuss any issues with the officer who is processing the application.  However, any comments should be made official and brought forward in writing.


What comments can I make?

You may write in support of a proposal, you may wish to object to it or you may simply want to bring certain matters to the attention of the Directorate. 

If you do wish to express your views these should be

• Clear
• Concise
• Logically structured
• Related to planning issues

A well written argument will be more impressive than a long rambling letter.  It will also help the officer reading it to understand your points.


What is a planning related issue?

Comments should be as objective and directed to the proposal under consideration.  Emotional or personal arguments are unlikely to be relevant.  MEPA and the DCC will base its decision on whether the proposal complies with:

• Structure Plan polices
• Local Plan polices
• Other policies and planning guidance relevant to the site or use in question

Particular attention is given to proposals which fall within those areas which are designated by the Structure Plan as being of special value or interest, including Rural Conservation Areas, Areas of Ecological or Agricultural value, Areas of Archaeological Importance and Urban Conservation Areas (village cores).  In addition, where development is likely to have any significant environmental effects, the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment is required. 


What happens once I have passed on my comments?

Once your letter is received, an acknowledgement will be sent and placed in the corresponding application file.  The points highlighted in your letter will then be assessed by the case officer dealing with the application, and where appropriate, changes to the proposal may be sought. 

Your comments will be referred to in the case officer’s report (DPAR) to the Development Control Commission (DCC) or MEPA Board.  The Board will take your comments into account in reaching its final decision.  The views of the Local Councils will be given particular weight. 

However, although the Board has a duty to consider all comments, the ultimate decision cannot be made simply on the basis of people’s opinions alone.  Planning Officers and both Boards (DCC and MEPA) are also guided by the policies in the Structure Plan, and by other relevant policies, regulations and planning considerations. 

You will then be informed in writing about the Board’s final decision. 

How are applications decided?

The main deciding body of MEPA is the MEPA Board. However, this Board decides on applications involving EIAs, Scheduling, zoning and height limitations and changes in alignment. The MEPA Board delegates to the Development Control Commissions (DCCs) the decisions on other applications. This delegation of duties is legally regulated and is assigned to 3 DCCs: DCC A, DCC B and DCC C.   These Commissions refer to the MEPA Board for guidance when necessary and, unlike the MEPA Board, do not decide on policy.


What are the Development Control Commissions?

The DCCs are legally constituted decision making bodies set up to deal with development planning and planning control applications. They function as a delegate of the MEPA Board.   As such, they carry out those functions of the Authority in relation to development control, which the Authority may from time to time delegate to them and require them to perform, subject to such conditions as the Authority may deem appropriate.

The Commissions consists of:

• A Chairman appointed by the Prime Minister

• Six other members appointed by the Prime Minister

 

How often do the DCCs meet?

The DCC Boards meets as often as necessary, according to the agenda. Besides meeting to decide on applications, the DCCs also carry out site inspections where the members feel that they need a clearer picture of the location of the proposed development.  The agendas of the DCCs are placed on website fifteen days prior to the sitting and the interested parties are notified as soon as an application is placed on agenda.   Meetings are held at MEPA’s offices at St. Francis Ravelin.  Details of the agendae and applications are available on the MEPA website in the Planning Applications section. The decisions on each application are logged in real time on the website.


DCC Board (Division A):

This Commission is delegated to take decisions on applications falling mainly in white areas, villa development, major projects and applications falling outside the development zone.

The DCC (Division A) is currently composed as follows:

Mrs Elizabeth Ellul BE&A (Hons.), A&CE (Chairman)


Appointed Committee Members are:


Mr Ruben Sciortino BE&A(Hons), A&CE

Mr Daniel Cordina BE&A(Hons), A&CE

Mr Peter Axisa

Mr Charles Micallef St. John

Mr David Smith

Mr Karmenu Abela


 
DCC Board (Division B):
This Commission is delegated to take decisions on applications falling mainly within the development boundary and in industrial areas.

The DCC (Division B) is currently composed as follows:

Ms Mariella Axisa BE&A(Hons), A&CE (Chairman)


Appointed Committee Members are:


Mr Tancred Mifsud

Mr Alex Stellini

Mr Patrick Calleja

Mr Alfred Pace

Mr David Vassallo BSc, A&CE

Mr Joe Spiteri Bailey


 
DCC Board (Division C):

This Commission is delegated to take decisions on applications falling mainly within the Urban Conservation Area and village core.


The DCC (Division C) is currently composed as follows:

Mr Claude Emvin Borg BA&CE (Chairman)


Appointed Committee Members are:


Ms Bernardine Scicluna

Mr Joe Attard Tabone

Ms Therese Vella

Mr Victor Joseph Rizzo

Are meetings open to the public?

All DCC decisions are taken in public, who may observe the discussions on applications. By law, participation is at the discretion of the Chairperson. However, under normal circumstances, the Chairpersons permit interested parties to speak if they are highlighting aspects relevant to the application which had not been previously submitted to the case officer in the course of the processing of the application. 

In exceptional circumstances, the Chairman may exclude any member of the public who disrupts the conduct of the meeting or seeks to exert undue pressure on the members.

Needless to say, these sittings are a formal occasion and appropriate dress and behaviour are required. 

Prior to the sitting, the DCC secretariat prepares for the members the agenda for the sitting and a copy of the reports of the Planning Directorate on each application to be decided on the day. This is given to the members as soon as the agenda is finalized so that the members can have ample time to familiarize themselves woth the case and consult the relevant files as the case may be.

The Chairman calls the number of the application to be discussed and the applicant and architect may approach the members. The Chairman will brief verbally the members on the most relevant aspects of the application.

The Chairman will then invite any interested parties to voice up their concern.  Following this, DCC members will discuss the application within the considered parameters.  The Board may ask for further information or clarification by the case officer. 

May I speak up during the DCC Board meeting?

Any interested person wishing to speak about an application should signal the Chairperson and await direction.  Such submissions are at the discretion of the Chairperson, whether to accept the submissions or not. The Chairperson may give directions on the nature of the submissions which can be accepted.

Persons wishing to attend or bring forward any comments during the hearing must inform the Secretary in writing. The decision rests with the Chairperson.

As a general rule, speakers should not become involved in direct discussions or argument with members of the DCC.  They may, of course, answer a question posed by the DCC members, but the Board’s Chairperson will tend to cut short any speaker who attempts to speak or intervene during the Commission’s deliberations.

What happens after the DCC meeting?

Following the discussion, the DCC will take a vote and reach a decision.  The decision may be to:

• Approve the application with recommended conditions
• Approve the application with additional conditions
• Refuse the application, either for the recommended reasons or other additional reasons for refusal.
• Defer a final decision to obtain further information or clarification, or for any other reason, such as a site inspection.
• Overturn the recommendation of the Planning Directorate. In this case a planning reason is to be given for this decision.

After the sitting, the applicant will receive a letter informing of the decision or of the additional information required. Where an application is a straight forward approval or refusal according to the recommendations of the Planning Directorate, then either the permit or a letter of refusal is sent. Any fines, bank guarantees or any other financial settlements which the applicant is responsible to make, have to be submitted to the Authority before a permit can be issued. Failure to do this will incur a delay in the receipt of the permit. Similarly, if additional information is requested by the DCC and this is not submitted or not submitted in time, further delays will be inevitable. This is because the new information may need to be passed on to other Authorities for their approval.

Do these procedures apply to the MEPA Board meeting?

MEPA Board adopts the same procedure for the hearings in public.   The number of applications determined by MEPA Board is smaller but normally they are of greater magnitude and so take up considerable time. The applications are appointed a time slot and the hearing will not start before that time slot. The media often attend these sittings and they follow an established practice regarding the filming of the sittings. The PR office attends the sittings and provides help and information to the media and the members of the public.
The Board is currently composed as follows:

Mr Austin Walker (Chairman)


Appointed Board Members:

Mr Michael Ellul BE&A (Hons), Dip. Arch. (Rome), F.R.Hist.S. (London), MQR

Mr Joe Tabone Jiacono

Mrs Elena Borg Costanzi BE&A(Hons)


Mr Charles Bonnici M.Sc

Mr Anthony Zammit B.Sc., M.Sc

Mr. Joseph Vella

Ing. Joe Farrugia B.Sc (Eng.), C.Eng (MICE)

Mr Roderick Galdes B.Plan, M.A (ISSS), MaCP, M.P

Perit Joseph Falzon B.E.&A.(Hons) M.P.


Ms Sylvana Debono B.Ed (Hons.), M.Sc (Stir) (Board Secretary)


OBSERVERS:
Perit Claude Emvin Borg A&CE (DCC Chairman)
Perit Mariella Axisa BE&A(Hons) (DCC Chairperson)
Perit Elizabeth Ellul BE& A (Hons) (DCC Chairperson)
Mr Christopher Borg BE & A (Hons), Pg Dip (Env Mgt), MSc (Env Plan & Mgt), MMCP(Director of Planning)
Ing Ray Piscopo B.Sc.Eng (Hons), C.Eng., MIEE, Eur. Ing. (Director Corporate Services)
Mr Martin Seychell (Director of Environment Protection)

Can I appeal against a decision on an application for development permission?

Section 37 of the Development Planning Act 1992 gives you the right of Appeal especially if you feel aggrieved about a decision taken by the Development Control Commission or MEPA Board.
Applicants may appeal against a decision on their application which they consider unreasonable.  This decision may either be
• a refusal; or
• an approval with conditions with conditions or modifications

There are two types of appeal
• A request for reconsideration (made to the DCC Board)
• An appeal (made to the Planning Appeals Board) against the decision
A request for reconsideration shall not be made concurrently with an appeal, but then an appeal request can be made to the Appeals Board after the receipt of the decision taken in the reconsideration.
Registered third party objectors (those who submitted a written representation on the application during the 15 day period after the publication of the application) have the right of an appeal against the decision of the Authority on an application, but cannot make a request for reconsideration.

How do I make a request for reconsideration or an appeal?


An official request should be submitted by the architect in charge of the application or your representative, on your behalf, as follows:

• Reconsideration MUST be made within 30 days of the receipt of the decision by the applicant
• Appeals to the Appeals Board MUST be made within 30 days of the receipt of the decision by the applicant


Requests for Reconsideration or an Appeal should be submitted by means of a letter stating the reasons for the request, accompanied by the receipts showing that the Building Levy due in respect of the application has been paid.
This statement should be detailed, containing ground for the appeal and directed towards the reasons for refusal or the imposition of condition(s) as appropriate.

The request for reconsideration should be either submitted by hand directly to the Planning Shop, Block 1, St. Francis Ravelin, Floriana or sent by post to:

The Secretary, Development Control Commission, The Planning Authority, St. Francis Ravelin, Floriana, PO Box 200, Valletta CMR 02.


The Appeal should be either submitted by hand directly to the Planning Appeals Board Secretary, St. Francis Ditch, Floriana, or sent by post to:

Planning Authority Appeals Board, PO Box 172, Valletta.

 

Requests for Reconsideration and Appeals must also be accompanied by the receipts showing that the Building Levy due in respect of the application has been paid.

What are the fees for Requests for Reconsiderations and Appeals?

The fees are as follows:
• for a Reconsideration 3% of the Development Permit Fee paid in respect of the original application subject to a minimum of EUR69.88
• for an Appeal from a Decision - 5% of the Development Permit Fee paid in respect of the original application subject to a minimum of EUR186.34
• for an appeal against enforcement notice EUR58.23 is to be paid.