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‘Will People Lose Their Building Rights?’: Planning Law Lecturer Challenges Roberta Metsola’s ‘Green Manifesto’

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Planning law lecturer and leading government consultant Robert Musumeci has challenged PN MEP Roberta Metsola to delve further into the implications of her new ‘green manifesto’, specifically whether it will result in people losing their building rights.

“From what I can gather, one of the main goals of [Metsola’s] manifesto is to stop the aesthetic environmental ruin caused by the height limitation policies introduced by the 2006 local plans,” Musumeci said in an open letter to Metsola yesterday.

“It’s an uncontested fact that whenever buildings are built in untouched areas, the aesthetic result, even if temporary until other people build next to it, results in the creation of ‘blank walls’,” he wrote.

“These often jar with the surroundings and it is clear you want to address this.”

Last week, Metsola, who has often been touted as a potential PN leader, launched a seven-point ‘green manifesto’ intended to “adapt our economic model to look beyond concrete and asphalt” and ensure “sustainability and liveability” become key considerations when taking decisions.

Although she didn’t pinpoint any specific policies which need to change, her ‘manifesto’ makes it clear that she believes some kind of systematic change is necessary:

These are the seven points she mentioned.

1. Instead of tearing down our houses, let’s incentivise restoration and address the issue of empty residences.

2. Instead of chopping down our trees, let’s understand that our children deserve clean air as a right.

3. Instead of funnelling traffic from one corner to the other, let’s look at real alternatives and match our commitment with proper public investment.

4. Instead of filling up every other corner with construction waste, let’s invest in a truly circular economy that creates new green industries that re-use & recycle waste material.

5. Instead of ensuring we are left in permanent shade, let’s fix our planning system and harness solar energy.

6. Instead of pricing our youth out of the property ladder, let’s ensure that the system allows them the same opportunities previous generations had to own a home.

7. Instead of repeating the same mistakes that are still being made in Malta let’s stop forcing Gozo down the same road of bad decisions and short-termism.

Following Metsola’s declaration , Musumeci aired three questions to the MEP.

“Is it true that people who currently have a right to add more storeys to their buildings as a result of the local plans but who have yet to obtain a permit in this regard will lose this right if their development leads to the creation of blank walls that jar with their surroundings?” he asked.

“Does this apply to both Gozitan and Maltese sites? Is it true that owners who are negatively impacted by this change won’t be compensated because the European courts distinguish between the concepts of a ‘vested right’ and a ‘legitimate expectation that can be frustrated’?

“I thank you for discussing this from the seat of a prospective government.”

Do you think Malta should update its local plans?

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Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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