by Petra Caruana Dingli

The MEPA demerger was launched at various public meetings this week. It was not very helpful for the audience to find that the 100-point document about the demerger will not be available until Tuesday next week. Perhaps it was still at the proof-readers.

There will surely be many interesting and valid points in the document, however some of them have already been stated and I think there is at least one that should be probed further.

One of the supposed highlights for the new Environment Authority is that it will be able to appeal the decisions of the new Planning Authority at a planning Tribunal. Other government entities will also be given this right.

Surely this new right would only be used as a last resort in very exceptional cases? If there are important environmental issues at stake in an application they should not be ignored by the new Planning Authority in the first place. I should hope that we never get to the stage where the Environment Authority is regularly obliged to submit an appeal to a Tribunal, in order to argue that environmental concerns should not be neglected or overruled by the Planning Authority.

Such a confrontational and cumbersome approach between different government entities on environmental issues is certainly not the way forward for everyday planning matters, let alone for particularly important ones.

A Tribunal is obviously not a practical or straightforward way to ensure that environmental matters are absorbed within all planning decisions and policies, or to ensure that the “environmental voice” will be kept alive at the Planning Authority after the demerger.

If the right to appeal is to be introduced, the Tribunal can only be a last resort measure and should be clearly presented as such.