To be honest, the Prime Minister is justified in arguing that starting a construction project, which would need complete reinstatement if the permit is revoked, is illogical.

Hence, the PM’s proposal to transition to automatic suspensions when development permits are under appeal by third parties is not prima facie unreasonable.

In practice, however, this means that development permits might only materialize months after   approval by the planning authority if a third-party appeal is in progress.

From a legal standpoint, it is indeed accurate that “è lecito al vincitore in una lite di esigere dal soccombente i danni nella sola ipotesi quando il vincitore stesso è in grado di stabilire che il soccombente abbia litigato dolosamente per malizia o colposamente per grave negligenza.” [1] In other words, it is lawful for the winner in a dispute to demand damages from the loser  in the scenario where the winner can establish that the loser has litigated deceitfully out of malice or recklessly due to gross negligence.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to emphasize that within the realm of planning, it’s exceedingly difficult to claim that those opposing it have acted with insincere intentions. This is because claims can pertain to ‘any’ planning and environmental matter.

It’s relatively straightforward, say, to contend that a specific development lacks local distinctiveness or the distinctive Maltese identity, and fails to reflect the character of its specific location. Similarly, an objector can assert that a proposal fails to consider or improve upon the existing context and urban structure.

Labelling those voicing such concerns as acting in bad faith is not straightforward, as these principles, although highly subjective, are grounded in planning policies.

Therefore, in planning matters, it’s highly unlikely that objections will be successfully dismissed as vexatious.

Consequently, one must relinquish the idea of suing the objector for material damages if the permit is upheld on appeal.

We need to familiarize ourselves with the notion that, after obtaining planning permission approval, there may be a waiting period of circa a year and a half if a third party decides to take the case to the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal and, subsequently, to court based on a legal issue.

[1] Negte. Carmelo Delia -vs- Giovanni Xuereb decided by the Court of Appeal on 9th May 1932.