The Malta Environment and Planning Authority issued an enforcement notice against a site owner in Triq it-Tigrija, Xaghra, Gozo, alleging that various structural interventions had taken place without a permit.
The illegal works included the formation of a passageway and unauthorised facade alterations. Indeed, the site owner was formally notified with the enforcement notice on 2 May, 2014 by way of a registered letter and consequently he decided to file an appeal against the enforcement notice.
A copy of the appeal submission reached the MEPA offices in Gozo on 15 May, 2014. A copy of the same documentation was filed at the Tribunal Registry (in Malta) on 20 May, 2014. Now, any person who feels aggrieved by any order or notice served on him may file an appeal against such order or notice within 15 days from the service of the notice. (Article 86 (12) of Chapter 504)
In this case, it follows that the appeal submissions reached the MEPA offices (in Gozo) within the statutory 15-day period while it took appellant 16 days (namely, a day further to the statutory closing period) to lodge a copy of the said submissions with the Tribunal.
As one would anticipate in these circumstances, the Authority immediately insisted with the Tribunal that the appeal should be dismissed forthwith since it was lodged fuori termine (“out of time’).
For his part, the appellant explained that he went to his lawyer on 9 May, 2014 (seven days after he was formally notified with the enforcement) and his appeal submissions were duly filed with the Authority in Gozo on 16 May, 2014. Appellant, thus contended that his appeal was valid. More so, he referred to an exchange of correspondence with the Tribunal, by way of which he was requested to forward the original copy of the paid appeal levy. In this context, appellant therefore contended that his submissions were tacitly endorsed by the Tribunal.
In its assessment, the Tribunal highlighted the importance that, for an appeal to be valid, the relative submissions must reach its registry within the statutory 15 day time period. The Tribunal acknowledged the fact that the appellant lived in Gozo and that the Tribunal registry is located in Malta. Furthermore, the Tribunal assessed that the appeal submissions reached the MEPA offices (in Gozo) within the statutory 15 days. Nonetheless, it concluded that the appeal was fuori termine since the submissions must, in any event, reach the Tribunal offices in Floriana.
Appellant appealed the Tribunal’s decision before the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction), insisting that he was deprived of a fair hearing. Nevertheless, the Court confirmed the Tribunal’s decision.