Our Planning Authority has long come under scrutiny when making decisions on planning control applications (PC) concerning rationalized zones. Back in August 2006, a Parliamentary decision rezoned sites which previously fell outside of development zones so that these could be opened up for development subject to planning control applications being submitted by those interested in their land to establish what road network and construction types can take place there.

Unsurprisingly, former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, under whose watch these rationalized zones were established, recently revealed that his government only accepted 10% of all outside development land proposed for inclusion into these development zones. I am fully convinced that he is telling the truth.

More recently, the Planning Authority was inspired to issue an unusual press release that provided legal perspective behind this particular state of affairs. This technical legal explanation could only have come at such a time as now.

Days earlier, an online portal reported that another planning control application will soon open the way to eventual development within an area comprising 10 tumoli in Zurrieq.

One interesting issue often raised during discussions is whether this government could overturn Lawrence Gonzi’s idea. I recently supervised a fourth year law student in his dissertation entitled: ‘The Interplay Between Vested Rights, Legitimate Expectations and Government’s Right to Regulate and Change Policy with Particular Attention Given to Development Planning Legislation.’

A key conclusion from this study was that  ‘…resolving the tension between, on the one hand, ensuring legal certainty on which individuals can rely and on the other hand preserving Executive’s discretionary freedom and administrative autonomy is immensely complex and contentious if not irreconcilable’.

The student’s call, here, is clear – given their status, elected politicians appear to be limited in their ability to reverse the August 2006 decision due to practical difficulties which cannot be resolved with just one stroke of a pen.