17 May 2006

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Business Today

No signs yet of impact on property market

Matthew Vella

Some of Malta’s leading property agents have told Business Today it is still too early to determine the impact the increase in development zones will have on the property market.
The increase in the development zones was announced last week by Environment and Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino, which will mean that the Malta Environment and Planning Authority would no longer be able to sanction illegal developments outside development schemes.

But developments built illegally outside development zones will not be excluded from the forthcoming revision of the 1988 Temporary Provision Scheme.
The so-called rationalisation will allow a substantial increase of 2.4 per cent on the land area covered by boundaries set 18 years ago.
Dhalia operations manager Jeffrey Ciantar yesterday told Business Today the increase in supply of land and property can generally lead to a stabilisation of property prices although that outcome was not necessarily likely.
“Right now we have a big supply of property, so it has to be seen how much prices can be expected to actually stabilise themselves. From what I’ve read, the allocation of land will also be for public areas and roads, so how much property and building sites will be developed from the increase in the zones is yet to be seen.”
Joseph Lupi, managing director at Frank Salt, said it was still early in the day to speak of any impact: “one would have to see where the areas are and assess the extent of the development to be permitted. But generally speaking they could help to reduce the pressure on property prices.” Michael DeMaria, from Cassar and Cooper, said that apart from stabilising prices, the increase in the area of development zones will enable more people from villages to stay there. “Personally, I’d welcome anything which keeps a balance with the environment, so in this case I believe we should be going up, rather than spreading out, to keep the little green we have.”
In fact, the legal status of a building in the areas where the new development zones will be established, was not one of the criteria established by the government to guide MEPA on whether to include a particular area or not in the revised boundaries.
The environment minister has announced that “we will soon be taking a decision through which illegal developments outside the revised development zones will not be considered for sanctioning.”
The decision would end the anomaly of MEPA sanctioning illegal buildings outside development zones.
But Pullicino’s admission that illegal developments could be considered in the forthcoming revision of boundaries raises concern that some illegal development outside the 1988 schemes could be effectively sanctioned in the coming weeks.
Pullicino insisted that whether illegal or not, the government’s rationalisation exercise will only include infill gaps – small areas in between developments – and pockets of closed land already included in the 1988 provisions which do not exceed 17,000 square metres in Malta and 10,000 square meters in Gozo.
The only exceptions to this rule will be areas allotted for multi-ownership plots which were not included in the 1988 boundaries.
He also reassured that no land of ecological value, or containing irrigated agricultural land will be included in the new schemes.
Once the consultation period for the criteria is over, the site plans will be published and consultations will take place during a six-week period. MEPA will then make its recommendations.
The next step will be the approval of the development zones by parliament, possibly before the summer recess.


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