Updated 6.40pm

The prime minister announced plans for the quick introduction of new regulations on excavation and construction practices shortly after announcing he was suspending demolition works, amid widespread anger at the construction industry.

Speaking following a meeting with representatives of the construction industry, he said all permits for demolition and excavation have been suspended and no works will be allowed until the new regulations come into force in a few weeks.

His announcement came hours after an apartment wall collapsed into a building site in ─Žamrun, the second such incident in a week and the third in two months.

The meeting with the construction sector had been arranged in the wake of the collapse, last Saturday, of a three-storey apartment block in Mellie─ža.

Another apartment block adjacent to a building site collapsed in Guardamangia in April. 

Works continue

But in spite of the suspension, Times of Malta received complaints of ongoing works from all over the island

The police said when contacted the Building Regulations Office (BRO) had not set any mechanisms in place so the police took over the task until Friday.

The police were, however, also short on manpower, since they had not had time to prepare to handle the suspension.

Dr Muscat explained that a reform would need to be put into effect before the suspension is lifted.

He said that on Monday, the government will be publishing draft regulations for public consultation. The consultation period will only last five days, and the authorities will continue to hold meetings to receive feedback.

The proposals will then be moved to parliament for approval in the following week.

The aim of the talks, Dr Muscat said, was for difficult decisions to be taken after  the arguments on all sides of the table were understood.

More obligations on architects, site managers

The proposed regulations will include an obligation for architects and site managers to be on site when crucial decisions are taken and when certain excavation works are done.

Geological and geo-technical surveys are currently only done when digging exceeds three metres. The new proposal is for these surveys to be done for all excavation works.

Such studies need to be signed by the architect so that responsibility can be shouldered, Dr Muscat said.

Those who continue carrying out works despite warnings will be fined €50,000, up from the current €2,000.

A number of proposals will also be put forward to secure the walls of buildings overlooking construction sites.

Those in breach of these regulations or found not to be abiding to the method statement were previously fined up to €500. Under the proposed regulations, they will be fined €10,000.

"This is a strong sign to anyone that breaking regulations will risk the development of your project," Dr Muscat insisted.

No authority can police all the country around the clock, he said, which meant architects and contractors needed to abide by the laws.

Architects during the meeting with the prime minister said the current suspension can endanger ongoing works. In those specific cases, architects have been asked to contact the Buildings Regulations Office and they will see to them on a case-by-case basis.

Works that will be allowed to continue will be the exception, not the rule, Dr Muscat insisted.  

The meeting, Dr Muscat said, had been productive with all stakeholders agreeing they needed to find a way forward quickly.

 

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