The Cabinet has approved a fairer system for planning appeals which will see the commencement of construction works suspended until an appeal process is exhausted, the prime minister announced on Tuesday.

He said the public would be encouraged to have its say in an upcoming consultation process.

Robert Abela made his announcement on social media, but he first indicated the government's plans while speaking at a Labour mass meeting in Valletta on May 1.

At the time he had called for a discussion about reforming planning laws to effectively freeze developments until appeals processes are exhausted. 

“Does it make sense, if it ever did, for the planning law to allow construction work to start when the permit is still being contested before the tribunal or the law courts?” Abela had asked. 

The planning law anomaly has allowed all sorts of developers – from construction moguls to Infrastructure Malta and even Minister Ian Borg – to press ahead with construction projects even while appeals against them were still pending. 

More recently, last month, Times of Malta reported how works on the site of the former Mistra Village to make way for a massive residential development were continuing despite the revocation of the permit by the chief justice almost three months previously. A Planning Authority spokesperson had said the works were covered by a permit that had not been suspended during the appeal.

Environmentalists have long campaigned for this legal loophole to be closed.

Calls for reform of the construction sector picked up over the past months amid the controversy over the dp mega project in Pembroke and the death as a result of excavation and construction works, of Miriam Pace and Jean Paul Sofia. The government recently also announced new regulations to oversee contractors and new licensing requirements for construction workers. 

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