MEPA: Strong with the weak weak with the strong

Source: Mr George M Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published on The Malta Independent on Sudnay 20th October 2013


As a private person who inherited a rural property in Gozo¸ which was partly in ruins¸ and¸ after many attempts¸ managed to obtain a building permit in 2007 to rehabilitate the property and its adjoining land. It is a pity how after one struggles to rehabilitate derelict dwellings and improve the countryside one is faced with a refusal by Mepa on the grounds that the rubble wall is not of standard height. An appeal to sanction the construction of a small pool (within 50 square metres) and landscaping was rejected after three years of an unforgettable gruelling experience. Can Mepa ever reform itself and treat the ordinary citizen with respect and dignity? Can anyone ever understand how this public agency¸ which now runs at a loss of close to €21 million (this after hiking up its tariffs two years ago) and employs an army of professionals¸ can ever be tamed to render a decent service to an ordinary person.

Forget the property magnates who have run riot with their rich pickings; Mepa has a long history of protecting the developers such as MIDI¸ which constructed a succession of ugly flats in Sliema¸ ruining the vista from Valletta of the Tigné promontory. Developers were quick to advertise that such a collection of box-like structures had all been sold and built two other massive seafront towers that are now 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 and 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 with the litany of dubious permits¸ one cannot forget the protestations of the auditor of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) when he concluded his investigation into the reconstruction of a farmhouse in Ba?rija mentioned earlier. At the time¸ the board discussed applying what is known as Article 39A and finally did revoke the original permit. The applicant resigned his party post after he was granted a Mepa permit to build in a very ecologically sensitive valley in Wied tal-Marca¸ Bahrija. One cannot forget how the Mepa auditor investigated the case and found a lot of irregularities on how the permit was granted. As stated earlier¸ on reapplication the Bahrija permit was finally issued.

In another case¸ a permit for an extension to a beauty salon in Attard was withdrawn after it was found that somehow¸ through Mepa’s fault¸ the original application had not been published in the papers nor had a site notice been affixed. In another unusual case¸ a permit for internal and external alteration work¸ including the construction of a basement and a swimming pool in an archaeological site was approved upon application by a former ADT chairperson¸ to carry out work in the Xaghra tal-Ghattuqa area¸ close