21 August 2023


Din l-Art Ħelwa is appealing for funds to increase its scrutiny of planning applications, to help its efforts to safeguard and protect the built and natural environment.

The eNGO has a sub-committee – the Heritage and Environment Protection sub- committee – which last year filed 1,500 objections – a considerable percentage when you take into account that there were 9,599 applications.

The list of planning applications is published every week in the Government Gazette. The HEP focus is on those which go against policies, or which have a substantial impact.

“You could have something which is in line with a certain policy, but which still has a negative impact,” architect and sub-committee member Tara Cassar explained.

DLĦ objections do not fall on deaf ears – and in fact, many applications will have been recommended for refusal by the PA’s own case officers. Unfortunately, the Planning Commission, far too often, overturns these recommendations.

“In some cases, the impact of the development would be significant if it went ahead and therefore merits further action before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, with several cases being challenged every month,” she explained.

The process for an appeal makes filing an objection seem easy in comparison – apart from the cost which could be anything from€200 to €1,000. It requires a detailed written appeal, outlining the policies and the legislation on which it is based. The team will need to attend three or four sittings, where DLĦ has the opportunity to submit the evidence it had in the written appeal – from photomontages to surveys, analysis of the drawings, an expert affidavit.

“Anything that we feel would help our case…! Of course, the other party has an opportunity to rebut DLĦ’s appeal and once the final arguments are submitted in writing, these must again be defended in person. It’s a long process…” she added.

If this is not successful, DLĦ has one more option: to appeal in Court. The Court Appeal involves numerous sittings but when the DLH succeeds and wins, the permit is either revoked or sent back to the Tribunal, with all the work that this involves: new submissions have to be drawn up based on the Court decision. The Tribunal may then send the whole thing back to the Planning Authority in which case it must take the decision on board.

“When you decide to appeal, you are in it for the long haul. Once you start it, you simply cannot give up…” she said. These cases set a legal precedent – whether the place of the Local Plans in the hierarchy of policies (as ruled by the Tattingers case in Rabat) or the refusal of an application for a five-storey block in a design priority area in Sta Venera.

“We are not seeing enough of a change at the planning application stage. Many applicants still think it is worth trying, perhaps hoping that we will give up. So many residents do, after all…“We are getting the decisions that we have been fighting for over a period of years. It is still worth the fight, no matter who we are up against, no matter how much pressure there is against us.”


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