Updated March 25 with Chamber of Engineers reaction

Developers have suggested a new trading system that would, they say, encourage the protection of unspoilt areas in and around village cores.

The proposed system would see developers purchase what is known as the gross floor area of a property near the village core, ensuring that this remained undeveloped.This would then be offset by payments for projects elsewhere, such as planning gains, which developers normally have to fork out on large construction projects.

Speaking during a meeting with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Malta Developers Association head Sandro Chetcuti said a new technical committee would be drafting proposals to stop building in Malta’s remaining unspoilt urban areas.

“Our towns and villages are disappearing and this is something we want to act against,” he said.

Mr Chetcuti said the MDA proposal would be drafted in more detail by a new MDA technical committee made up of architects and engineers.

Architect and planning consultant Stephen Farrugia, who forms part of the new committee, said the proposal was based on a system used overseas to protect iconic urban areas from unwanted construction.

Dr Muscat said he was not averse to the idea, but added that this would have to be studied and carefully thought out.

The value of land in different parts of the island varied greatly, he said.

Public consultations would have to be carried out, and he urged other stakeholders to engage with the government if they too had proposals on such issues.

During the meeting, Mr Chetcuti also made the case for self-regulation of the construction industry, something he has long been calling for.

In particular, the MDA believes architects and engineers should be made to self regulate in much the same way medical practitioners abided by a set of rules who were brought before the medical council if they broke the rules.

Read: 'Relaxing' planning policies would lead to affordable housing

Dr Muscat said he agreed with this in principle, but said self-regulation could not mean deregulation.

Architects and engineers should run the risk of losing their warrant if they had been found to breach the rules.

This, Dr Muscat was the way things were headed, however there was still a long road ahead.

Introducing such a reform in a staggered manner, might be the ideal way forward he said.

Transport Minister Ian Borg and Planning Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius were also present for the meeting.

Kamra tal-Periti, Chamber of Engineers react

In reaction to the comments made about architects, the Chamber of Architects said that the profession has been self-regulated since 1919, reinforced by the establishment of the Kamra tal-Periti in 1920.

The profession has a Code of Professional Conduct, which all warrant holders are duty-bound to adhere to.

"Reports of misconduct are taken very seriously, duly investigated, and, depending on the case, may also result in the suspension or revocation of a warrant," the chamber said.

It added that developers and contractors, on the other hand, are not regulated at all.

The chamber welcomed the MDA’s stance in favour of regulation of the industry, said that position was aligned with what it had been advocating for many years.

"The industry is one of the pillars of the economy, and as such it is essential that the highest standards are demanded and achieved," it said.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Engineers pointed out that the engineering profession is regulated under Chapter 321 Engineering Profession Act of the Laws of Malta.

Enshrined within this act is the code of ethics which every professional who is in possession of an engineering warrant to practice the profession of an engineer must follow.

The Chamber of Engineers has set up the ethics sub-committee within its structure, tasked to deal with issues of infringement of this ethical code. It is nonetheless important that developers engage warranted engineers from the initiation of projects in order to ensure the attainment of highest standards.

The Chamber additionally noted that, currently, without the involvement of engineers from an early design stage, there is little to no enforcement of specific building regulations as stipulated under LN 47 of 2018- Energy Performance of Building Regulations.

The Chamber of Engineers encourages the government to implement the registration and regulation of developers and contractors ranging from excavation, construction to building services.

Correction: This article was amended from the original that erroneously reported developers as having proposed trading land in one part of the island for another. 

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