The Nationalist Party is proposing that projects outside development zones should require approval by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

“It is high time that ODZ land is adequately protected. Both parties made their share of mistakes but it is now time to draw and line and stop further degradation once and for all,” Opposition leader Simon Busuttil told NGOs as he announced a partial review of the party’s environment policy.

“I will propose to shift the final decisions on major projects affecting ODZ land from the Government to Parliament and that Parliament should act by a two-thirds majority. Thus, all major projects of a national importance in ODZ, whether initiated by the public or private sector, will be subject to two-thirds approval of Parliament. In this way, we can build a national consensus on land-use which is a subject of growing public concern and one of our long-term challenges,” Dr Busuttil said.

He said the PN is proposing a review of  SPED (the structure plan) to ensure that the protection of the  countryside and ODZ leaves no room for ambiguity as is the case today.

Public institutions, notably the PA and the ERA should operate autonomously and no longer be the lunga manus of the Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office.

There would be a zero-tolerance approach to illegal development.

“ The current ‘incentive’ for Government to give up ODZ land for speculative projects on the grounds that it is ‘cheap’ if not ‘freely-available’ should be removed. Thus, publicly-owned ODZ land shall be given an economic value at least equal to the economic value of the same kind of land in prime development zones,” he said.

He said the PN also wants a landscape policy which protects areas of high landscape value and addresses those developments which mar the countryside.

It would also seek an improvement of the quality of the urban environment to reduce the pressure on ODZ. 

FIRST REACTION

in a reaction, the Civil Society Network said that it agreed in principle with the PN proposal.

"Civil Society Network urges all political parties and NGOs which have the environment at heart to support this proposal in principle. If adopted correctly, it can add another layer of scrutiny to large ODZ proposals apart from SPED, other planning regulations and the Planning Authority process".

"The parliamentary vote should take place only after conclusion of planning process and only in case of a PA approval. A refusal by the Planning Authority should be final. Besides, two thirds majority should be required for any revision of ODZ boundary," the network said.