I refer to the article ‘Yes men: most ODZ permits in 11 years’, (The Sunday Times of Malta, February 19).
I would like to clarify that it is not true that the adoption of the RPDG 2014 (Rural Policy and Design Guidance) resulted in significant variations in the number of dwelling units that have been permitted in ODZ. On the contrary, when other policies were applicable, the number of permitted dwellings in ODZ was much higher, as can be seen from the accompanying table.
The policy also removed inconsistencies that existed between different policies and which gave way to various loopholes, thus putting ODZ land in jeopardy.
Furthermore, with the introduction of the Environment and Resources Authority this strong commitment in favour of the environment and the protection of ODZ land has been further elaborated.
Today we have clear rules and clear guidelines of when an application should be accepted, something which was not the case under the previous administration. It must also be pointed out that it was the previous government that decided to strip off pieces of land 10 times the size of Senglea from ODZ and include it in the Development Zone – the impact of this decision is still being felt.
The article in question also stated that 745 developments in ODZ areas were approved in 2016 alone, compared to a 10-year average of 500 developments a year between 2006 and 2015. This fails to make reference to one particular issue, which is the DNO. The Development Notification Order (DNO) was a legal notice that had exempted a wide range of general developments from full development permit application procedures.
The removal of this procedure for development that previously could be carried out through a DNO is no longer possible, and today one has to submit a normal or summary application.
Hence, this decision in favour of transparency and accountability is reflected in the numbers whereas before these type of developments were never taken into consideration.
Also, it must be pointed out that the main amount of these applications are related to agricultural rooms whereas the amount of residences within ODZ issued in the last three years when compared to the previous years are by far less.
Furthermore, everyone is entitled to file an application even if these may be deceiving and against the environment. However, this government has strengthened institutions and created others – like the ERA – to ensure that the environment, including land within ODZ, is given maximum protection.
Units developed within ODZ areas