The message from the planning authority is think twice before building without a development permit, because doing so will soon become very expensive.

From November 24 any illegal development will incur daily fines, which will increase gradually depending on the duration of the illegality before reaching a capped €50,000.

Planning authority chief executive Ian Stafrace yesterday said he hoped the fines would serve as a deterrent.

“We have no intention of making money from these fines and hope they will make people think twice before building without a permit,” he said.

The fines will apply to any illegal development after November 24, from the time when the Malta Environment and Planning Authority issues an enforcement notice.

Those built before November but have an enforcement order issued after the cut-off date will not incur daily fines.

These start at €4 daily in the first 50 days, going up gradually to €25 daily if the infringement persists for more than a year. But infringements will be classified in three categories with different penalty structures.

When the owner applies to sanction an infringement, the fine will continue to accumulate and if the application is approved the applicant must pay either the sanctioning fee or the fine, whichever is higher.

The fines start accumulating after 16 days, which is the period allowed by law for the owner to remove the illegal structure.

Mepa enforcement director Alexander Borg said building without a permit outside the development zone would currently cost a developer €2,500 if he filed for sanctioning.

This would increase to €25,000, he said, a much bigger deterrent.

Developers will be notified of the daily fine as soon as the enforcement order is issued.

Mr Borg said Mepa will issue dummy fines on enforcement orders issued over the next three months until the cut-off date.

“This does not mean that Mepa will not resort to direct enforcement action to remove the illegality but it is a strong deterrent to close any loopholes in the current framework.”

Dr Stafrace also spoke about possibly linking the Land Registry with Mepa so that banks and notaries would find out, during their research, if a property carried a particularly grave enforcement order and was racking up daily fines.

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