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Mepa Demerger

A STRONGER ENVIRONMENT

The Government is on track to fulfill a major proposal of its electoral manifesto through the demerger of MEPA into two separate and independent authorities, one for the environment and another for planning.

HOW WILL THE ENVIRONMENT BE STRENGTHENED

This reform shall be strengthening the environmental arm precisely through the setting-up of an Environment Authority that shall have full autonomy and independence.  This Authority shall have the power and autonomy to develop the country’s environmental policy and shall ascertain that this policy is eventually implemented so as to ensure the better management and protection of the environment.  Furthermore this Authority shall be formally represented in the new Planning Authority’s Executive Council that shall be responsible for the development of planning policies, thereby assuring that the planning policy reflects the environmental exigencies whilst ensuring that the right balance is achieved between conservation and environment protection and responsible development.

Given that it shall now be completely autonomous, the new Environment Authority shall be represented as well in the Planning Board that decides development permits, together with a representative of eNGOs and, in certain cases, a representative of the relative Local Councils.

The Environment Authority shall have more clear responsibilities and wider functions, including mainly the development and implementation of policies and strategies at national level. Another major regulatory function is the regulatory one whereby it shall evaluate and authorize activities that may have an environmental impact.  As a result there will be more clear and transparent process for the authorization of facilities and activities, something that is presently totally absent.  Every process shall be subject to scrutiny by the public that shall have access to environmental information in accordance with international conventions and EU directives.

Precisely because it shall now be a completely autonomous one, the new Environment Authority shall have the right to file an appeal in front of an independent tribunal in the event that it does not agree with a permit issued by the Planning Authority.  To date, this was not possible because the Environment Directorate is fully integrated as part of the same Authority that issues development permits.

The environmental sector is dominated by a number of international and EU obligations, obligations that, to date, have not been given their due importance because other factors that have been given priority by the Authority as presently constituted. Linked to this, the new Act as being proposed is enhancing the responsibility of NGOs who shall now be directly involved in the decision process related to environmental matters.

We are committed that the new Environment Authority shall be a pro-active and strategic one that shall focus more specifically on guarding, protecting and enhancing the environment and resources, whilst also assuming the important role of environmental regulator something that presently the country does not have.  We believe that Malta should be at the forefront of environmental standards.  Not because of the obligations emanating from EU directives, but because that is what our children merit.  This is what we believe, this is what we have promised and this is what we shall deliver.


AN ENHANCED PLANNING AUTHORITY

The Environment and Protection Act (Act V of 1991) signalled an attempt to codify previous fragmented environmental legislation under one umbrella. It specified the duties of the Minster responsible for the environment and dealt inter alia with legal provisions relating to toxic substances, noise, energy control, environmental impact assessments and other supplementary provisions.

A year after, Parliament enacted the Development Planning Act (Act I of 1992), modelled to a large extent on Sir Desmond Heap’s Town and Country Planning Act, 1969. Act I of 1992 is considered to be the first major step which was deliberately channelled towards consolidating fragmented pieces of outdated planning legislation. Indeed, Act I of 1992 repealed the Building Development Areas Act (1983), the Aesthetics (Buildings) Ordinance, the Building Permits (Temporary Provisions) Act as well as parts of the Code of Police Laws. Act I of 1992 also signified the shifting of the Minister’s powers, which until then was responsible for the issuing of building permits, to an "independent" Planning Authority. 

In 2001, Parliament enacted Act VI of 2002, where Act I of 1992 and Act V of 1991 were merged into one single umbrella law. Act VI of 2002 resulted in the setting up of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, whose role was now to oversee both planning and environmental matters.

The Environment and Planning Act (Act X of 2010 - Chapter 504 of the Laws of Malta) was enacted through Parliament in 2010, bringing about a number of key administrative changes within MEPA, including the  setting up of four independent Directorates (focusing on Planning, Environment, Enforcement and Corporate Services) answerable to a Chief Executive Officer,  the introduction of full time Environment and Planning Commissions and an Environment and Planning Tribunal (which replaced the Planning Appeals Board) along with a number of changes in the planning application process through LN 514 of 2010.

Following the March 2013 General Elections, the newly elected PL government  pledged to undertake a radical “MEPA reform” – this time round  aiming towards “demerging” the current functions of the MEPA and reassigning once again the “planning” and “environmental” roles to two distinct Authorities. In May 2013, the new government published a document “For an efficient Planning System – A Consultation Document”, unveiling the way forward. The year 2015 was set as a target, during which the new laws were to be enacted.

Indeed, the “planning regime” shall now be regulated by a new Act entitled “Development Planning Act”, while the “environment regime” shall be subject to a separate Act entitled “Environment Protection Act”.  Moreover, the Building Regulations Act (Chapter 351 of the Laws of Malta) shall be repealed altogether and the functions of both the Building Regulations Board and the Building Regulations Office are set to be migrated into the said Development Planning Act. More so, the provisions which fall under Part V of the Code of Police Laws (Chapter 9 of the Laws of Malta) shall also be migrated to the Development Planning Act.  Essentially, this means that sanitary matters touching building development shall no longer be determined by the General Services Board, but shall instead fall directly within the jurisdiction of the new Planning Authority. Moreover, the Development Planning Act contemplates a clear distinction between policy and decision roles, whereby policy functions shall be vested with the Executive Council (who shall also be responsible for the processing of development applications and enforcement procedures) while planning applications shall be determined independently by the Planning Board and/or the Planning Commissions.

The legislative changes also contemplate for the setting up of an Environmental and Planning Tribunal (which is currently found under the Environment and Planning Act) under a separate law – the Environment and Tribunal Act – which, in turn shall have the power to decide upon appealed decisions emanating from both the Development Planning Act and the Environment Protection Act.  The idea of having the Tribunal under a separate Act is to secure “administrative independence”.

The Development Planning Act therefore aims to simply and streamline current application and policy procedures within a more transparent framework and increased third party rights. At the same time, the current Environment Protection Directorate shall have its consultative role distinctly elevated since the new Environment Authority shall now be given decision and policy making status in the planning policy and decision process through its distinct presence in the Executive Council and the Planning Board.

THE LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS

The following are the proposed legislative proposals (draft bills):

·                     ​​Environment Protection Act, 2015

·                     Development Planning Act, 2015

·                     Environment and Planning Review Tribunal Act,2015​

Submissions received on the draft bills related to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority reform:

 PREVIOUS CONSULTATION DOCUMENTS

The following are the consultation documents published in March 2014.

 

Below you may find the submissions received during the consultation carried out in early 2014 regarding the MEPA demerger process: