6TH June, 2024

DLĦ warns that PA policy amendment would increase crowding and congestion

Changes mean additional floors could be permitted

Din l-Art Ħelwa is appealing to the public to object to a Planning Authority policy proposal which would transform our villages by facilitating the construction of additional floors – beyond those specified in the Local Plans.

Eclipsed by election fever and discussions about preserving Gozo’s character, the Planning Authority changes would create considerably more crowding than envisaged under current legislation

In February, just a few weeks after the planning portfolio was assigned to Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, the Planning Authority – at the request of the Government – opened a public consultation to amend the policy (P35 of DC15) which concerns building heights. The PA explained that the proposed revision of policy was intended to provide a more ‘consistent understanding’ of height regulations and the allowable number of floors in different localities. The PA said this was required to ‘eliminate inconsistencies’ in the interpretation of this policy. 

The ‘inconsistencies’ referred to were landmark judgments given by the Court of Appeal that confirmed in certain cases that the Planning Authority’s approval of an entire additional floor beyond the limits stipulated in the respective Local Plans was in violation of policy.

However, the call for public consultation made no reference to the court judgments and failed to specify the real intent of the exercise which finally came to light in May when the Planning Authority opened the second phase of the public consultation. Here the Authority effectively confirmed that through this proposed policy amendment 4-storey apartment blocks could be approved on all site currently designated for 2 floors with one receded floor, while 5-storey apartment blocks could also be approved on all sites designated for 3 floors and one receded floor.

If implemented, the policy amendment would, for example, make it possible for an already constructed 5-storey apartment block in Xewkija to be sanctioned. This could happen even though the permit had been revoked by the Court of Appeal in November 2023 after Din l-Art Ħelwa successfully argued that the approved 5-storey apartment block exceeded the 4-storey limitation (3 floor plus one receded) imposed through the Local Plan.

Following the revocation of the permit, the developer should in theory have demolished the two upper floors and then rebuilt only one penthouse floor to be in line with policy. However, the apartments were not demolished following the court judgement and the Planning Authority failed to issue an enforcement order for their demolition.

Din l-Art Ħelwa believes that instead of applying the letter of the law, as it should, the Planning Authority is facilitating the construction of more floors across Malta and Gozo than those permitted through the Local Plans. It strongly believes that the role of the Authority is not to devise ways and means to find ways around the limitations imposed through planning policy but to ensure that what is built is in accordance with planning legislation.

Din l-Art Ħelwa maintains that the proposed policy amendment would enable the construction of taller, denser apartment blocks across several towns and villages in Malta and Gozo. The increase in the number of residents will lead to further crowding and congestion as well as contribute to an increased strain on infrastructure in several localities. The NGO holds that such a policy amendment is the very opposite of the sustainable approach that the Authority is duty bound to adopt. Policy amendments must prioritise sustainable development that enhances, rather than diminishes, the distinctive charm and character of Malta and Gozo.

Din l-Art Ħelwa invites members of the public to voice their concerns and object to this policy amendment. Submissions can be made until the 17th June 2024 by sending an email to


December 2021 – DLH files appeal against Xewkija development of 4 floors plus a receded floor in area designated for 3 floors plus a receded floor

January 2021 – Tribunal refuses request for suspension – works on apartment block begin

March 2023 – DLH files appeal to court after tribunal rejects appeal

October 2023 – Works on Xewkija block near completion

November 2023 – Court revokes permit for already built Xewkija development of 4 floors plus a receded floor in area designated for 3 floors plus a receded floor

January 2024 – Minister of Gozo, Clint Camilleri given Planning Portfolio

February 2024 – On request of Government, Planning Authority initiates public consultation to amend building height policy and ‘eliminate inconsistencies’ in its interpretation

June 2024 – Second phase of public consultation opens confirming that policy amendment intended to allow 4+1 developments in areas designated as 3+1 – If confirmed, the, now illegal, Xewkija development can be sanctioned.