Times of Malta 18 April 2008 – Apart from overhauling the way members are appointed to the boards, the report makes a number of key recommendations on the structure of the authority.

The report makes a case against the idea of de-merging Mepa’s two main directorates – the planning and environmental directorates – as was suggested originally by the authority’s former investigating officer Carmel Cacopardo.

“While there is inevitably a creative tension between development planning, on one hand, and environmental protection, on the other (as they were prior to the creation of Mepa as we know it in 2004), to separate the two functions into two free-standing entities would undermine the need for close communication and coordination between the two halves of the same problem on matters of common concern,” the report says.

Instead it is suggested that this tension is ultimately resolved by the proposed executive chairman who would be the arbiter between the heads of the environment and planning directorates.

The report also makes extensive recommendations concerning environmental impact assessments. Instead of the current controversial practice of developers choosing the experts carrying out EIAs, the report proposes that a pool of professionals be drawn up and that Mepa would choose the persons doing the study, which would still be paid for by the developers.

With regard to the contentious development outside development zones, the report recommends that a document is published urgently defining clearly “those few developments (such as cattle farms) that may be permitted outside development zones…” Any application that does not fit the criteria should be rejected out of hand, the report continues, recommending that a new category of protection – “protected non-development zones” – should be applied to places such as Ta’ Ċenċ and Ħondoq ir-Rummien, the latter being a site for a proposed yacht marina, where no development “of any kind whatsoever” can be permitted.

Moreover, it is suggested that, contrary to current practice, in the case of ODZ applications challenged through the planning appeals process, work should not be able to start before the appeals’ board gives its verdict.

As was done by the Chamber of Architects, the report also suggests the setting up of an aesthetics directorate that would regulate all planning issues relating to good design and architecture. The committee would be made up of individuals with a proven track record of artistic appreciation and good design.

“Although the uglification of design which has, sadly, occurred all too often in recent years cannot easily be undone, steps should be taken now to introduce a new era of good design for the future,” the report says.