MEPA… a colossus thundering over the weak

Source: Mr George M. Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published on Malta Today Tuesday 5th November 2013

Can the Malta Environment and Planning Authority ever reform itself and treat us – the ordinary citizens – with respect and dignity? Can anyone ever understand how this public agency (which now runs into losses of close to € 21 million – this after hiking up extensively its tariffs two years ago – and employing an army of professionals) can ever be tamed to render a decent service? Forget the property magnates who have run riot with their rich pickings; MEPA has had a long history of protecting the developers such as Mistra Complex now owned by Gemxija Limited with Kuwaiti financiers which has recently been approved a mega development of over 700 units consisting of high rise flats to be erected on the ridge towering gruesomely over a picturesque valley.

Other such examples includes MIDi which constructed a cacophony of flats in Sliema¸ ruining the vista from Valletta of the Tigne promontory – to which  developers were quick to advertise that another sea front tower of such like box structures is now being offered for sale.

In other instances MEPA allowed the destruction of the Kalkara Valley¸ uprooting protected mature carob trees and removing an organic farm; allowed a property baron to build the Riviera Hotel illegally and supplied the ex-PN President with a permit to construct a villa in the ecologically sensitive Bahrija valley. Add to this¸ the massive development of huge chunks of sensitive areas near Wied Ghasel¸ Santa Maria Estate culminating with the resignation of the entire MEPA board when it was discovered that its head was acting as an architect for a prominent developer.

To continue in the litany of dubious permits¸ one can’t forget the protestations of the MEPA auditor when he concluded his investigation into the reconstruction of a villa in Ba?rija mentioned earlier. The applicant being an ex-PN president had resigned his party post.  The Opposition party at that time were questioning whether he may have used his influence over MEPA to issue the permit.

One cannot forget how the auditor investigated the case and found a lot of irregularities in how the permit was granted. No prize for guessing that upon reapplication the Bahrija permit was finally issued.

Yours truly inherited a rural property which was used by a farmer as a mill together with two adjacent rooms for habitation. The massive mill room was intact but the roof over the two rooms collapsed and after many attempts I applied and succeeded to be issued with a building permit in 2007 to rehabilitate the property¸ reconstruct the collapsed rooms with a basement and a retaining rural wall. Since 2007¸ an application to add a small pool and erect a rural wall plus minor amendments was refused¸ and after posting two appeals to sanction both were rejected.

This took the best part of three long grueling years¸ during which time no compliance certificate can be issued¸ so the farm house was without irrigation and electricity. What a farce – with a change of government the Authority said that “owners of residences that have an existing minor irregularity and which is not creating a disturbance to neighbours¸ can apply