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Gozo housing estate - photo by Lino Debono

PA Loopholes?!!! by Lino DeBono

“Having discussions with a friend of mine over a drink, I complained about the numerous Outside Development Permits, over 666, that were issued for Gozo, let alone Malta by the Planning Authorities.

I strongly stressed that these sort of permits were ruining Gozo, the village cores and also ruining Gozo’s way of life in general. I also strongly voiced my objections to the fact that there are just a few Gozitan and Maltese individuals that were actually abusing the system.

I cannot understand how, when it is against the law to build in Outside Development Zones, numerous permits are still being issued. That is a disgrace on the planning Board and the present Administration. The relevant authorities are also not taking immediate action to remove any illegal buildings even after issuing “Removal Notices” to abusers.

Not only that, but as years pass, official approval for these illegalities are in general eventually approved. A ridiculous and totally farcical situation.

Surprised but Enlightened

My companion really surprised me when he said, “do not blame these individuals for taking advantage of these loopholes – blame the authorities that provided these loopholes. It would simply be stupid for these individuals not to make use and take advantage of these loopholes.”

Boy, was I surprised by this answer.

His reply hit the nail on the head. It is quite true, experts made the regulations, the same experts that provided these loopholes. Knowingly or unknowingly it is the authorities that introduced these laws with the experts help and assistance.

This indirectly means that it is the same authorities that have planned and therefore are permitting these buildings by loopholes allowing them to be built in the Outside Development Zones.

It is inconceivable for any intelligent mind not to come to the conclusion that these loopholes were discussed, evaluated and approved by competent professionals and experts. They must have known and expected that these loopholes would certainly be exploited by developers and other such entities.

The general public and numerous associations, have for many years been complaining about these abusive buildings in the supposed Outside Development Zone, but still these permits keep being issued.

So the real issue should be, “why are the authorities who made these regulations with these loopholes still permitting them?” If these loopholes were a mishap – a mistake – one can easily amend them. So the million dollar question is, “why in heavens name, are the authorities leaving these loopholes for years on end?”

The answer through numerous approvals of illegalities is very simple, these were planned that way, for the exact purpose of allowing such individuals to bypass the laws and regulations by intentionally leaving enormous loopholes for them to Exploit.

New Minister Dr Aaron Farrugia

Recently we had the appointment of an upright Minister Dr Aaron Farrugia, a young politician in whom I have a lot of faith. His new constructive revisions regarding Outside Developments Zone loopholes are like a breath of fresh air. He has said that he will be adjusting these illegalities by plugging these loopholes.

These statements were made several weeks ago.

The general public welcomed these aspects, but as the saying goes “The Proof Is in the Pudding.” We have to see if what was promised will be passed as law whilst we are still in this world. Immediate implementation is therefore required. The good has to suppress the evil.

Why should it be that numerous associations and the general public continuously complain about these illegalities whilst the people in authorities turn a blind eye to these loopholes? Certain people as Board Members also quoted and supported these outside development zone permits by quoting the relevant loopholes in which the particular permit has to be approved?

This adds insult to the general public’s position, who are not stupid or ignorant in evaluating the words and actions of those responsible.

So please, the relevant authorities must close and dismiss all these loopholes once and for all, as these very same authorities are the main culprits of such abuses.

Bricks instead of Maltese Stone

Another aspect is that of the buildings material. Previously on both islands people built with the Maltese limestone, which is a material that can be worked to one’s vision and requirements. In Gozo more so than Malta, people had stone balconies, sculpture and all sorts of banisters made out of them. One can visualise these wonderful buildings in housing estates. Such buildings enhance the Gozitan/Maltese general way of life and culture.

I am inserting a picture of a part of “Tal-Hamrija Housing Estate” in Xewkija, mostly built by home owners themselves as many are/were builders, such structures show how marvellously they were built. The majority of other housing estates all over Gozo feature similar constructions.

Whilst in general the Maltese used to white-wash the stone, Gozitan’s preferred the original stone inside and outside.

Nowadays, buildings are being built using bricks. Whilst it may be convenient to build with bricks, these give in my view an ugly facade and goes against the local lovely traditions of building’s built from quarry stone. The difference of taste and in beauty are enormous.

Still it is up to the individual. But what about taste and beauty? Why do we in our islands still to the present day, love to see the beauty of old stone buildings. Personally I used to walk Sliema promenade with my wife and daughter, marvelling at the beautiful old buildings along the front, which have now sadly been destroyed and replaced by ugly modern buildings!

Solar Panel Overshadowing

Previously the majority of buildings were of two stories in height. These last years much higher buildings have been permitted in several areas. These new buildings brought consequences with them, although one can understand this policy due to limited space. One has to choose either to expand on our undeveloped areas or go higher.

This policy though has brought another problem to the normal citizen. The authorities have previously induced the people to invest in “Clean Energy” by installing Solar Panels. Thousands of Euros were invested individually by the general public, only to now have the higher buildings overshadowing their panels.

So their huge investments have ultimately come to almost nothing.

I do strongly suggest that the authorities should consider at least keeping the original reimbursement electricity rates to whoever has installed these panels. This way investments made by the general public would not have been wasted by new bylaws which rendered these investments null or very limited.

But as the saying goes “Money Walks – Money Talks.” Still the general public did and still do appreciate the beautiful buildings both past and present.

Let us all look forward to a better Malta and Gozo in the immediate time and also in the future.”

Lino DeBono, Gozo 

 

SOURCE ARTICLE: Gozo News