Updated 5pm with Chamber of Planners comments

The proposed amended regulations relating to the construction industry following a number of building collapses were "piecemeal and ill-thought", the Chamber of Architects and Civil Engineers said in a draft position.

The proposals issued by the Infrastructure Ministry, say that architects and site managers will have to adhere to stricter procedures and regulations and in case of any breach, fines may shoot up to €50,000. 

Three buildings - two in Guardamangia and another in Mellie─ža - were destroyed or severely damaged thanks to construction work carried out in adjacent areas.

In a statement on Tuesday, the chamber said Malta’s legislative instruments needed a complete overhaul. Attempting to amend the current regulations without considering their impact on other legislation, as well as on current practices and the industry’s capacity, was a recipe for further confusion and lack of clarity.

The legal notice failed to address the dangerous process of loading party walls, and their foundations - designed to carry two or three storeys - by several floors.

The chamber referred to an amendment aimed at clarifying the roles of the figures engaged on a site and said there were glaring incongruities with roles defined in other legislation.

Rather than clarifying, the proposals introduced new roles without defining appropriate competencies, while ignoring the existence of figures already defined in other legislation, such as licensed masons.

It also ignored the lacuna regarding the legal obligation for the registration of contractors, who, together with architects, were liable for the structural integrity of buildings.

The chamber said that the proposed processes for the submission of method statements, geo-technical investigation and design reports were cumbersome and more intent on establishing who carried out and submitted the reports, rather than on establishing the criteria for their preparation.

The chamber said it believed this was due to a lack of research to understand how such instruments were used internationally, and trying to adapt them to the local situation, with no regard for scale or complexity of projects.

The proposed draft, it said, seemed to imply that the measures proposed were to apply retroactively for ongoing projects. This would have implications on the capacity of the industry to respond in a meaningful manner, it said.

The chamber said it did not believe that the proposed amendments were acceptable and would be publishing a full analysis at the end of a consultation period following an extraordinary general meeting, being held on Friday.

Architects have been given until Thursday at noon to submit their comments in writing.

Chamber of Planners say regulations not enough to address problems

The Malta Chamber of Planners also weighed in, saying that while the new regulations were welcome they would not, on their own, be sufficient to address the current problems with the construction industry and particularly the safety of adjacent properties.

“The regulations should promote a precautionary approach for all types of demolition and excavation works on site, irrespective of the distance between such works and adjacent properties/walls. Such precautionary approach should also be promoted in particular areas or situations where geo-technical instability of the ground is very likely - example, properties in close proximity to ridge edges, caves, clay areas, etc.,” the chamber said.

It also noted that it was unacceptable to leave sites excavated or in a state of abeyance for more than one calendar month, and that applications for excavation alone should not be allowed.

It also suggested that planning permits should be valid for three years instead of the current five, and just two years for development in ODZ.

The chamber also warned that despite the need for appropriate studies, there was always the risk that the rush to finish a project “to move on to the next” might result in poor construction methods.

It also suggested that the method statement should be forwarded to the relevant neighbours for a one-week consultation, giving them enough time to seek professional advise and raise concerns if necessary.

To avoid cases linked to construction from dragging on for years, the Chamber of Planners proposed the setting up of a construction appeals tribunal, composed of an architect/ structural engineer, a lawyer and a geologist, which would be obliged to deliver a decision by not later than two months, with appeals to the Civil Court of Appeal only on points of law.

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