The planning authority has been stopped from amending the central Malta local plan after a court upheld a developer’s request for a warrant of prohibitory injunction.
The provisional court ruling was delivered after the owners of a Balzan site – Mario, Pauline and Malcolm Mallia – filed a request for the warrant in the Civil Court presided over by Mr Justice Joseph Azzopardi.
In 2004, the Mallias filed an application to build apartments and underlying garages on their land in St Francis Street and Gabriel Street. Back then, half the site was zoned as a villa area and the other half was a “terraced housing zone”, where apartments and maisonettes could be built.
According to local plan amendments approved by Parliament in August 2006, the whole site was then changed to a terraced housing zone. In spite of this, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority had abusively delayed their application procedures, the Mallias said. They filed a court application and the Civil Court ordered Mepa to call a sitting to hear the application.
However, despite the recommendation for approval by the authority’s technical staff, in June 2009 the board turned down the application. The Mallias then filed a planning appeal that was scheduled to be heard next month.
The Mallias added that a report compiled by the Mepa auditor concluded that, according to the current local plan, the application had to be granted. The only way not to grant it was to wait for two years and change the local plans. (According to the law local plan, amendments can only take place after two years.)
Then, some time after the application was turned down, the Mallias found out that the authority planned to amend the local plans.
In March, this year they received letters informing them that the local plans were being revised and that, following a mistake by the authority, the public consultation would be reopened.
The Mallias immediately res-ponded in writing signalling their objections but the authority failed to refer to such objections in a report containing feedback on the revision of the local plan.
The Mallias claimed that the report, which would influence the final decision on the local plan amendments, was not valid because it contained mistakes and failed to give a full picture of existing objections.
They also pointed out that their pending cases, in front of the Mepa Appeal’s Board and the law courts, would be prejudiced if the local plan was revised.
For this reason, they called on the court to issue a warrant of prohibitory injunction banning Mepa from processing the planning control application.
The court temporarily upheld the request after ruling that, prima facie, it seemed that the Mallias could suffer extensive damages. A final decision will be taken by the court after the case is heard within 20 days.
Lawyers Ian Refalo and Joanne Vella Cuschieri signed the application.
[Times of Malta, 18 May 2010]