Consultation on new policy to increase controls on development of building in ODZ

Permits for development in ODZ areas (outside development zones) will be more difficult to obtain with a new policy on rural development which has been issued for public consultation.

The Minister for the Environment and Planning, Aaron Farrugia, said that this policy will eliminate many of the circumstances which serve as a smokescreen to obtain development permits and will reduce the chance of interpretation, while it takes into consideration the needs of genuine farmers.

All the controversies which have broken out over building in ODZ have led to the drawing up of a new policy by the Planning Authority which amends the 2014 policy. Minister Aaron Farrugia said this new policy has been drafted following wide-ranging consultation with environmental lobbies, farmers and the Chamber of Architects. Dr Farrugia said that with this policy, building in ODZ will be considerably restricted.

“We want the development which is being done to be genuinely for the sector and the environmental industry, for actual farmers. The definitions need to continue strengthening our work and there can be no room for interpretation, so we have narrowed this down, and thirdly we have reduced the use of rooms in the Maltese and Gozitan countryside, and therefore the thresholds have increased for those genuine farmers who need an agricultural store to help them with their work.”

The Minister added that the policy will increase the protection of the zones and protected species and the Planning Authority will start departing from the principle of not accepting development in these zones.

The CEO of the Planning Authority, architect Martin Saliba, said that with the proposed draft, applications for abandoned rooms in fields which are changed into farmhouses will no longer be accepted. He explained that ODZ development can only be done according to a number of conditions.

“The use has to be an existing one, an actual one, so that one can easily justify it, in the sense that if it has an existing and legal use you can continue utilising it and perhaps you can get a permit for alterations, restorations or even a new development.”

Mr Saliba explained that in the case of a new development, the building needs to be the same size as the previous building. The policy will be open for public consultation over the next six weeks.