DLH Press Release – 14 July 2009

Din l-Art Helwa welcomes the long-awaited proposals for the reform of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority saying that the latest reform document contains many valid improvements.

However the Organisation is extremely concerned about the recommendation to move the responsibility for planning policy away from Mepa, and to centralise planning in the Office of the Prime Minister. ‘While all policies must follow the environmental and development strategy set by the government’, said Din l-Art Helwa, ‘the details of planning policies should be drawn up, as well as implemented, at arms length from politicians and central government.’

Din l-Art Helwa agrees with the proposal to maintain the current set up whereby the planning and environment directorates continue to reside within the same authority, and to harmonise the environmental and planning laws as this will provide a better governance framework and clearer allocation of responsibility.

It also welcomes the fact that the government is reconfirming its commitment towards a zero-tolerance approach to building or sanctioning in ODZ areas – however it reiterated the fact that this commitment was already made over a year ago with scant results so far. ‘There has been no real progress in protecting our countryside since the last general elections’, said the Organisation.

‘While it is true that Mepa has been subjected to a lot of pressure and many bad decisions have been taken, shifting Mepa’s responsibility for policy back into the hands of ministers and politicians, is a grave mistake. It is a step back into the past, when Din l-Art Helwa and many others campaigned in the 1980s for an independent authority to be entrusted with planning policy.’