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Legal Protection of Immovable Heritage

Powers of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to protect immovable heritage property
The process for protecting immovable heritage (Scheduling)
How can I request a property to be Scheduled?
Legislation / Policies which protect Scheduled Property

 

 

 

 

Powers of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to protect immovable heritage property

Section 81 of the Environment and Development Planning Act empowers the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to protect important sites (natural and cultural heritage) and include them on the Malta Scheduled Property Register.

The process for protecting immovable heritage (Scheduling)

The process for legally protecting heritage in Malta is referred to as scheduling. A Data Inventory Card of the property or properties is compiled to be included within the National Protective Inventory and an assessment of heritage significance carried out. If deemed to contain heritage significance a scheduling proposal is prepared and presented to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority Board for evaluation and decision. Once approved, the property or properties are published in the Government Gazette as Scheduled Property. Notifications of the approved scheduling are affixed on the scheduled property/area and all known land owners are informed by means of registered correspondence. The land owners have the right to submit a written request for reconsideration - which may include a request to amend the scheduling boundary and/or degree of protection - within 30 days from the receipt of the notification. Requests for reconsideration should be based on real and concrete reasons that would be assessed and reviewed by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority within three months from receipt of the request. If reconsideration is rejected by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority the owner has the right to appeal.

Please refer to the following flow charts for diagrammatical explanations of the scheduling process:

Scheduling Process
Scheduling Reconsideration Process
Scheduling Appeals Process

How can I request a property to be Scheduled?

If you believe a property should be legally protected to be included on the Malta Scheduled Property Register please fill in the request for scheduling of property form and send to:

Heritage Planning Unit
Planning Directorate
Malta Environment and Planning Authority
St Francis Ravelin
Floriana CMR01

Alternatively you can submit the information through our contact us page.

It is important to submit as much information as possible about the property as outlined in the request form. Missing information does not render your submission void however the more information you give us the more efficient the process of assessment.

Legislation / Policies which protect Scheduled Property

Cultural Heritage
Protection of cultural heritage can be achieved through a number of legal instruments.

Environment and Development Planning Act 2010
Section 81 of the Environment and Development Planning Act empowers the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to designate culturally important items as scheduled property.

Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands 1990
• The designation of historic/traditional centres of villages, towns and cities as Urban Conservation Areas (UCA) as per Structure Plan policy UCO 1, UCO 2 and UCO 3;
• Monuments, buildings and spaces within the UCAs listed in the National Protective Inventories as per Structure Plan policy UCO 4, UCO 5, UCO 6, UCO 8, UCO 9, UCO 10, UCO 11, UCO 12, UCO 13;
• Scheduled monuments and buildings as per Structure Plan policy UCO 7;
• Areas and Sites of Archaeological Importance as per Structure Plan policy ARC 1, ARC 2, ARC 3, ARC 4, ARC 5, ARC 6 and ARC 7

Other legislation
• Cultural Heritage Act (This Act replaces the Antiquities (Protection) Act)
• Local Plans (Central Malta, Gozo and Comino, Grand Harbour, Marsaxlokk Bay, North Harbour, North West, South Malta)
• Development Control within UCAs Design Guidance
• Shopfronts

Natural Heritage
The natural heritage of the Maltese Islands encompasses a diverse array of geological, geomorphological and ecological features and habitats for which preservation and conservation should be sought. Apart from having an intrinsic value such features also contribute significantly to the wider natural and often semi-natural landscape of the area and should be safeguarded.

Designation of scheduled property:

-Areas of Ecological Importance
-Sites of Scientific Importance
-Areas of High Landscape Value

Natural heritage can thus be partitioned in to three types of land designations: important habitats are designated as Areas of Ecological Importance (RCO 10) while areas constituting important features (such as rare species or a particular geological feature or the site is of particular ornithological significance) are designated as Sites of Scientific Importance (RCO 11). Particular landscapes within the Maltese Islands can also be scheduled as Areas of High Landscape Value (RCO 1). In many cases an area/site qualifies for protection under all three land designations

For AEIs and SSIs there are four levels of protection - Level 1 is the highest degree of protection whereas Level 4 is the lowest. Areas of High Landscape Value are not assigned any specific level of protection.

Therefore habitats that are very rare, or areas that support very rare species, would qualify as Level 1 areas. Such areas would be subject to the highest restrictions on development - obviously being rare or supporting rare species, these habitats would be very vulnerable and the least disturbance can lead to the permanent loss of such habitats and or species from the Maltese Islands. 

The restrictions on development depend on the level of protection. Therefore in general there are less restrictions on development within a Level 4 scheduled area, subject however that the natural habitat that is being protected is safeguarded. It should be noted that for Level 1 and Level 2 areas, the Authority designates a buffer zone (in general with a Level 3 degree of protection). Buffer zones are an important component of scheduling since although new forms development may be located outside the higher levels of protection they may still have an indirect impact on the Level 1/Level 2 scheduled areas and the overall integrity of the protected features and/or habitats. Therefore development adjacent to the important habitats and/or features should still be controlled.

The 1990 Structure Plan Explanatory Memorandum (paragraphs 15.35; 15.38; 15.39; and 15.40) and the approved Policy and Design Guidance: Agriculture, Farm Diversification and Stables (2007) specify the type of development that may be permitted according to the type (i.e. whether AEI, SSI and/or AHLV) and levels of protection (Levels 1 to 4).

Finally, scheduling is not the only means by which the Authority can protect our natural heritage. We also have international obligations towards protecting the natural habitats and biodiversity – one example is the EU habitats Directive that requires the designation of Special Areas of Conservation. In fact in 2003, the Authority has declared a number of SACs which cover a substantial extent of the Maltese countryside. Additional areas were designated in 2006.

Protection of natural heritage can be achieved through a number of legal instruments.

Environment and Development Planning Act 2010
Section 81 of the Environment and Development Planning Act empowers the Malta Environment and Planning Authority to designate important natural areas as scheduled property.

Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands 1990
This scheduled property would include Areas of Ecological Importance and/or Sites of Scientific Importance as per Structure Plan policies RCO 10 and RCO 11 respectively.

International Obligations
As a Member State of the European Union and Party to a number of global treaties, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, Malta has the obligation to protect natural habitats and species that are of national and international importance.

As part fulfilment of Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna (the Habitats Directive), the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has declared a number of areas characterised by habitats (or biotopes) listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive, as Special Areas of Conservation (Legal Notice 257 of 2003; Government Notice 223 of 2005 repealed by Legal Notice 311 of 2006; Government Notice 112 of 2007). Such areas may qualify as Natura 2000 sites, in which case they would form part of a network of sites of high environmental importance occurring throughout Europe.

Legal Notice 257 of 2003 which transposes the Habitats Directive also declares a number of plant and animal species as protected species.