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Malta’s environment is often falling victim to illegal works, and it seems that part of the reason for this is that authorities lack effective means of enforcing the law.

Just last week, construction magnate Joseph Portelli continued illegal excavation works in Qala even after he was faced with a warning notice, and then yesterday said that “he will gladly pay a fine”.

A look through the legislation in place for such issues reveals that continued illegalities within an ODZ or protected zone are not even fined for the first 16 days after the issuing of an enforcement notice.

This also applies to excavations taking place within an area of archeological importance, as well as the demolition of historic buildings.

Following the 16 day period, one is only fined €10 per day, until the first 50 days pass, where then the contravener begins to be fined €20 daily until the 181st day.

From the 181st day onwards, illegal works garner a fine of €40 daily, which then turns to €50 after 366 days are exceeded.

In the case of multiple illegalities on the same site when an enforcement notice is issued, the highest rate would be imposed, which appears to be that of €50 daily. 

For other illegal developments that do not fall either within ODZ, a protected area, an area of archeological importance, or historical remains, one is only fined the measly amount of €2 daily from the 16th day of the notice until 365 days, only to double to €4 euros after 366 days.

It doesn’t take much to note that when one has the funds to develop a large area of land into residential dwellings, such a minuscule fine will not even make a dent.

For six months of illegal works, including the 16 day period of no fining, a contravener would be fined a total of €2,960, which is a pittance when compared to the money developers stand to make from building an apartment complex.

Therefore in many cases, the developer committing illegalities will just continue to carry them out and pay the fines presented, as we often see happening in Malta. 

Lovin Malta also attempted to get in contact with the Planning Authority to figure out the way that these fines are enforced and whether they are effective, but no reply was given.

While it is commendable that a warning notice was issued for Portelli’s illegal works, many worry that the warning is then not actually enforced.

If illegal works are going to continue to be lightly fined in this way, then that only encourages developers to continue illegal works, rather than create a climate that does not tolerate such works to be permitted.

What do you make of this? 

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