The passing of Architect Godwin Cassar has brought a profound sense of sadness. He once held the position of Director General of the Planning Authority. What stands out most is his extraordinary career as a chartered town planner. His dedication to a demanding profession that also served the public, in a bygone era, different from our present, stands as a testament to his unwavering commitment.
The legacy of Godwin Cassar is intricately woven into his role in shaping the landscape of the Maltese Islands. During the transformative 1990s, he was entrusted by the politicians of that era with the responsibility of establishing a planning authority. He led the development of the structure plan that now parallels the contemporary Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED). His time as Director of Planning was marked by his leadership in propelling local plans forward and advocating for numerous urban development and revitalization initiatives.
Nevertheless, his contributions extend even further.
A key contribution of his is that he successfully persuaded the government of his time to establish an authority that operated in a manner where initial steps were guided by recommendations from case officers, while decision-making boards held the authority to override those recommendations. This dynamic was complemented by the essential avenue of judicial review, which allowed the courts to invalidate decisions made by the planning appeals board based on legal grounds.
While the role of the Planning Authority remains a topic of debate, Cassar’s vision has ensured that each phase offers an opportunity for thorough examination, granting the directorate he managed the privilege of being subject to oversight.
In this respect, his legacy shines even brighter, as he pioneered a system wherein decisions made by the Directorate under his charge could be overturned by a Board if stronger arguments were presented by the applicant or their technical and legal representatives.
Fortunately, this practice continues to the present day.
During this time of mourning, my heartfelt condolences are extended to his family.