My family owns an old seafront house in Marsalforn. It is one of those properties that gets to have multiple owners thanks to a combination of different wills. The house is one of the last original houses standing on the seafront. It deserves much better than it gets right now but since the family is spread all over the world (from Thailand to Luxembourg to the UK) it gets very little attention. At least the attention it gets is not daily. It is little surprise therefore that when some smart alec decided to convert a little hole next door into a restaurant in violation of all rules of commercial reason and viability as well as in violation of a plurality of health and safety considerations, none of us noticed the MEPA notice that was stuck on the adjacent wall. None of us was informed of the development that was to occur and it was too late to object once we noticed.
Obviously this does not mean that we are happy having a troglodyte trying to transform a hole in the wall into a viable restaurant – kitchen and all. The eejit is intent on “maximising” his effort and has already been caught storing boxes in our parapet – taking advantage of our absence. We are now restricted to minimising damage and the moment I have some time on my hands I resolve to make this guy’s business life a bureaucratic hell.
All this to say that not all failures to object within the appropriate time really do mean that nobody wants to object to a particular development. Obviously the law has created safeguards giving reasonable time combined with reasonable notice in order to create a legal assumption that all who wanted to object objected. It is an objective assumption dictated by the requirements of the smooth workings of the law and intended to ensure expeditiousness of cases while safeguarding potentially interested persons. It is and will remain an assumption though. It does not undermine the intention of the law itself – to ensure that development occurs without harm to persons or environment. Nor does it allow the authorities or applicants to circumvent possible objections by using devious methods – in my case for example I am morally convinced that the notice on the house was put up AFTER the term to object expired – but I have no proof of this except one or two witnesses (and I am sure that it will not hold).
When it comes to a project such as building villas over one of our few picturesque bays – a project that will alter indefinitevely the landscape of a public area (if not of a public heritage) such as Ramla I believe that the objective assumptions that are created on the basis of the iter of normal legal procedures must be weighed against the obvious contradiction that is the general discontent that such project has caused. The assumption can be, and is being , proved wrong.
In its reply, Mepa once again pointed out that the full development application was granted following the approval of the outline permit for which no objections whatsoever were received.
MEPA cannot continue to sing the song of there are no objectors. It is either blind or ignorant or both. We have cause to be doubly worried. Firstly because MEPA prefers to ignore a strong movement that has built up against the permit that was issued. Secondly, and more worryingly, we have a MEPA that is not really a guardian of our environment. In my ignorance of Planning Law I believe (and assume) that there must be a red light that lights up whenever sensitive zones like Ramla are being discussed. In my ignorance I believe that there should not be a need for NGOs to bark loudly and shout “Not Fair”. In my ignorance and seeing what happens in developed countries members of the EU the authority itself is a guarantor that nothing will be done to areas of natural or historical heritage.
Is it so utopic to expect that much? If the state of affairs is not such already then it should be remedied. As I said in a previous blog post (Livid) … if the law allows the current situation then the law is an ass. Do something before it is too late. Before Ramla Bay is another Xlendi in the making.