The Planning Authority has reversed its decision to remove objections to development applications from public view after the action was exposed by an environmental NGO.
Earlier on Tuesday, Moviment Graffitti revealed that the change would mean no-one would know the number and nature of objections made against planning applications.
In a statement hours later, the Planning Authority confirmed that it had initially planned to hide the representations, saying it had been advised to do so following a GDPR audit.
"Given the fact that the Development Planning Act does not provide any guidance for the processing or accessibility of representations, the Authority opted to follow the guidance as stipulated in the GDPR," it said.
"In order to allow further consultation on the matter, the authority reversed its decision and will once again keep all representations available to public."
The PA apologised for "any inconvenience" its initial decision had caused and said it "remains committed to ensure that the planning process is transparent and open to public access and scrutiny".
Graffitti observed that the PA had said in an internal circular that applicants and their architects should be the only ones able to view the public's objections.
“This shameful decision is the result of the filth that there is within the authority, which is now trying to hide more basic information from a system which is already geared to work against the citizens,” the group said.
Hiding the public's objections was intended to protect the public image of property speculators and developers, as well as politicians and the PA itself, Graffitti said.
This was because the public had been filing record numbers of objections to development applications in recent months.
Hiding the objections was the only route left to “those who want to do everything underhand,” the NGO added about the initial decision. "The bias towards developers is now getting even more clear.”
Graffitti said Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia and PA chief executive Martin Saliba should both be held responsible for this.
In a separate statement, independent election candidate Arnold Cassola asked the Ombudsman to investigate the PA's decision, saying it violated the basic right for transparency, more so when proposed projects 'stole' parts of public land including the coast and the airspace.
In another statement, the Nationalist Party said the authority's initial decision was unacceptable.