Less Bureaucratic procedures and new policies creating better climate for Business to operate
The setting up of a new Business Development Unit within the Planning Directorate is enabling the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) to provide a more efficient and business oriented service for applicants who decide to start up or continue to grow their commercial activities.
Details of this initiative and a suite of other business oriented measures were given at a press conference which saw the launch of ‘BUSINESSENSE’, an information campaign aimed at making both start up and established businesses aware of the increasing number of sustainable planning and development benefits.
With a strong emphasises on reducing bureaucratic procedures, increasing efficiency and creating a better climate for businesses to operate and grow, one of the first measures the Authority introduced was the substantial reduction in fees a business needs to pay when submitting a planning application. On average planning application tariffs for a proposed commercial development has seen a 34% reduction. To further encourage businesses to invest and regenerate our village cores, works associated with the restoration and rehabilitation of old or scheduled buildings are exempt from having to pay a planning application fee.
To reduce red tape and bureaucracy on development applications the Authority extended up until March 2015 the validity period of all expired planning development permits issued after 3rd August 2006. On the same premise, the Authority also increased the validity period of a compliance certificate from six weeks to three months. The compliance certificate is used to ensure that a development has been carried out in accordance with the relevant development permission, prior to the provision of water and/or electricity supplies.
With a number of development planning policies having long become outdated, as they were not reflecting today’s socio-economic and environmental context, over the past months the Authority has worked intensely on updating and enacting a number of new planning policies. Making them more pertinent to today’s realities with less bureaucratic procedures, the new and updated policies ensure that businesses can work within a climate and planning system which have clearer and simpler policies to allow them to grow in a sustainable manner. Such policies which have been revised and which have a strong bearing on the commercial sector include the publication of a new legal notice regulating the Use Classes Order, the Floor Area Ratio Policy regulating tall buildings and the revision of the Hotel Height Limitation Policy. Other policies and plans that are relevant to businesses and are being updated include the Structure Plan and Local Plans, the Solar Farm policy, the Development Control Policy and Design Guidance and the Fuel and Service Station Policy.
To further facilitate small scale commercial interventions, without compromising residential amenity, MEPA is favourably considering the change of use of garages for private cars to small scale offices or retail outlets (not more than 50 square meters) so long that the garage in question forms part of a single dwelling which is not part of a block of apartments and that the space in front of the garage can be made available for parking and is not restricted by other measures that preclude parking.
A protocol aimed at addressing grey areas encountered during the development control process, regarding accessibility for people with mobility problems has been agreed with the National Commission for Persons with Disability (KNPD). This protocol will facilitate that certain commercial activities will be exempt from the “access for all” regulations.
In the coming months, the Authority will further enhance the One Stop Shop concept, which will make the procedure and system for applying for a development permit simpler and cheaper. Instead of having to apply for different clearances at different government departments to get development permission, it will be possible to apply at one source with one payment. Additionally, through the new development planning legislation, a Fast Track application system will also be introduced, whereby development applications that conform to a set of policy criteria within the development zone will be approved within a short period of time.
In the coming weeks the Authority will continue to publish more business oriented measures and initiatives. Furthermore, MEPA continues to welcome suggestions from the public and the business community on how to further reduce bureaucratic procedures and increase efficiency within the Authority. These suggestions can be made by calling the co-ordination unit on 2290 2005.
For more information about the Businessense measures and initiatives visit www.mepa.org.mt/businessense.