In the realm of planning permissions, any interested party has the right to object to an application without the need to establish a juridical interest in the conventional sense.

In simpler terms, even if I’m an Australian citizen visiting on vacation, I can choose to raise objections ‘on the basis of issues relevant to environment and planning’ to a planning application (Article 71(6) of Chapter 552of the Laws of Malta).

What’s more, if the planning permit is eventually granted, that objector has the option to appeal to the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) and request the revocation of the permit.  Alongside the appeal, an objector turned appellant  can request the suspension of the permit’s execution until the appeal is resolved.

When such a suspension request is submitted, the Tribunal must make a decision on whether to suspend the permit’s execution. The criteria for suspension can be found under Article 33(3) of the EPRT Act (Chapter 551 of the Laws of Malta). Essentially, this article specifies that the Tribunal ‘shall not suspend the execution of such a permit unless it is satisfied, after hearing all parties, that failing to suspend the permit would result in disproportionate harm compared to the harm caused by postponing the permit’s execution’. Furthermore, the article states that ‘the execution of such a permit shall not be suspended if it is satisfied, after hearing all parties, that the development can be easily undone or reversed, or that the request is frivolous or vexatious’. In cases where the Tribunal does opt for suspension, the matter must be resolved within a three-month timeframe.

In today’s reality, there are instances where executable permits are suspended because the Tribunal believes the request is not frivolous, and the potential harm, if construction proceeds and the permit is subsequently revoked, would be excessive. Furthermore, in such cases, the Tribunal has consistently upheld the three-month timeframe without reservation.

In fact, when I represent permit holders and a third party objects to the permit and seeks its suspension, both as a lawyer and architect, I advocate for the Tribunal to grant the suspension, not implying that I necessarily agree with the alleged disproportionate burden as stated by the objectors. The rationale behind this is that I can secure a decision within three months instead of enduring the typical procedure, which often results in waiting for a year and a half. My choice to pursue this approach has consistently yielded favourable results.

With recent pronouncements from the Prime Minister, there is now a shift towards automatic suspensions.

I intend to explore the extensive ramifications of this vision in forthcoming discussions.