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PR 03/22 | Court chastises Planning Authority for illegally authorising demolition of historical Sea Malta building

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On 20th March 2018, the Kamra tal-Periti, together with Din l-Art Ħelwa and Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, had sued the Planning Authority over the illegal authorisation granted to Enemalta plc to demolish the Sea Malta building at Xatt l-Għassara in Marsa.

The Sea Malta building, or what is left of it, is an important part of our architectural heritage – a fine modernist building that successive administrations sadly failed to adequately protect and schedule.

 

The court case had been filed after having first written to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on 6th December 2017 stating that “this building is now severely dismembered as a direct result of the Authority’s failure to recognise its error, to ignore repeated calls for the works to be stopped, and to blatantly ignore the findings of the investigation carried out by the Commissioner [for the Environment and Planning]. This behaviour can only be described as an utter disgrace, and a clear signal that the Authority believes itself to be above the law.”

The Kamra had called on the former Prime Minister for immediate action to be taken to ensure that abusive planning approvals for demolition of our built heritage are reversed, and that the necessary measures are taken to safeguard historical buildings from further destruction under the guise of permitted development. A request for an urgent meeting was also made. This letter and successive pleas for discussion remained unanswered.

 

On 29th December 2017, the Commissioner for the Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman had confirmed the Kamra’s position about the substantive and procedural failings of the Planning Authority in this case. Indeed, the PA’s Executive Council had explicitly voted to ignore the Ombudsman’s findings and allow the demolition of the Sea Malta building to proceed regardless.

 

Yesterday’s final judgement confirms the Kamra’s position on the systematic failings in the planning processes that make a pretence of being rigorous but fail to truly protect the country’s built environment and its historical architectural legacy.

Over recent months, we have witnessed various images going viral on social media illustrating the travesty surrounding the purported protection of architectural heritage, from prehistoric cart-ruts to rural chapels and prominent 19th Century buildings in St Julian’s. These images nakedly expose this pretence, which should no longer be ignored by decision-makers. As witnessed in the Sea Malta building case, given the opportunity, the PA’s Executive Council will vote for the demolition of cultural heritage rather than its protection.

 

The Kamra shall continue to advocate for the need for comprehensive planning reform to ensure that the Planning Authority begins to focus on upholding the public good rather than speculative interests.

 

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PR 02/22 | Licensing of Contractors

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The Kamra tal-Periti welcomes the announcement made by the Minister for Public Works and Planning, Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, regarding the imminent publication of draft regulations on licensing of contractors for public consultation.

This announcement comes after months of meetings with Ministry officials following the Extraordinary General Meeting held on 26th May 2022 during which the profession had insisted that such regulations should be published by October.

The licensing of contractors is a critical step in the renewal of the construction industry, and is essential for our country to meet the necessary qualitative and environmental standards demanded by the public, responsible stakeholders, European Directives, and the market.

 

The Kamra has been campaigning for licensing of contractors since 2007, and had secured a Letter of Commitment signed by the Minister responsible for the sector at the time in the wake of the spate of building collapses in 2019.

Although over three years have elapsed since the Letter of Commitment, the Kamra has doggedly persisted about the need to license contractors and shall continue to do so until a proper licensing regime is in place.

 

Following the Minister’s announcement, the Kamra was invited to attend a further meeting in the coming days to review the final draft regulations. The Kamra shall continue to offer its technical support to the Government to ensure that the implementation of this important regulatory development is not only undertaken competently and smoothly, but without any further delays.

 

 

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The Shift News and Ethics

The Shift News has today published a news article on its web portal which heavily editorialises and distorts a reply sent to its editor, Caroline Muscat.

 

The full email is being published below for the record.

 

 

Dear Caroline,

 

In reply to your specific question, the first provision in the Code of Professional Conduct stipulates that “[a] member [of the profession] must not hold, assume or consciously accept a position in which his interest is in conflict with his professional duty”. This is common in deontological codes in most professions locally and abroad. The emphasis is on avoiding conflicts between professional duty and personal interests.

 

Such a conflict would arise when a professional could stand to gain personally from delivering a particular service in such a way that it undermines the client’s interests. It follows, therefore, that a perit delivering a professional service to himself cannot have a conflict of interest precisely because the interests are aligned.

 

It is pertinent to note that we are not aware of any European or North American states where an architect is prohibited from working on his own projects. You may wish to peruse a number of projects linked below where this was done successfully:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzina_Vincenti

https://www.dezeen.com/2022/01/29/architect-designers-homes-interiors-lookbooks/

https://www.ft.com/content/cfe85654-5d31-11e9-9dde-7aedca0a081a

 

 

Professional duty is not, however, limited to safeguarding the client’s interests. It also encompasses exercising the profession diligently, in line with established codes of ethics, codes of practice, standards and the law.

 

Regards,

 

Andre

 

This is indeed not the first time this news outlet has misrepresented the Kamra or a member of the profession. On 13th June 2022, Shift News published a story claiming that “[s]ources close to the agency told The Shift that despite the intense unofficial lobbying, particularly by NGOs and elements of the Chamber of Architects not to re-appoint Portelli’s architect as chair of the regulator…“. This is a categorically false statement. Despite a Right of Reply request being sent, Ms Muscat decided not to publish it.

More recently, The Shift News falsely reported that Perit Yanica Zammit was the architect in charge of the FTS school in Msida. On this occasion, after apparently insisted attempts by the maligned perit, the right of reply was eventually published.

 

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PR 01/22 | The 74th General Meeting of the European Council of Civil Engineers convenes in Malta to discuss the challenges of Climate Change

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The 74th General Meeting of the European Council of Civil Engineers convened in Malta this morning. This was the first time this prestigious European federation convened in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. The event was organised with the support of the Ministry for Public Works and Planning.

 

 

 

Opening the general meeting, the ECCE President Engineer Andreas Brandner stated that the COVID and the war in Ukraine have caused serious disruptions to the production and shipping of materials across Europe resulting in significant inflation.

 

Brandner also remarked that the effects of the failure to maintain and upgrade critical European infrastructure, including water, transport and sewage systems, to cut public expenditure is becoming increasingly apparent. The measures that many European governments are now adopting, driven mainly by lobby groups, are resulting in an exorbitant waste of public funds. The ECCE president called for a more holistic approach in this regard.

 

 

Andre Pizzuto, President of the Kamra tal-Periti and host of the four-day event, spoke of the critical role of built environment professionals, and in particular civil engineers in addressing the climate emergency. Pizzuto remarked that “during these past two years, as members of society became more sharply aware of the vulnerability of humanity on this earth, the impetus to address the impending climate emergency gained renewed urgency.”

 

Pizzuto referred to research publications pointing to the fact that “Malta’s energy demand over the next thirty years is projected to grow significantly, as its population continues to also grow at a fast pace. By the end of this decade, buildings will account for over 50% of the energy demand. A further 30% will be consumed for transportation.”

 

“The dominance of cars in Malta, with 6 cars for every 5 inhabitants, further exacerbates the unsustainable energy demand in our country,” he warned.

 

The KTP President called on the European Commission and national governments across Europe to strengthen the engineering profession by affording it the recognition it merits and providing the necessary legislative and regulatory infrastructure for engineers to meet the challenges posed by the climate emergency in a safe and sustainable manner.

 

“Nobody in their right mind would have considered liberalising and lowering standards in the regulation of health professionals during the peak of the health crisis we have just been through. Then why does the Commission think it is appropriate to continue advancing the notion that dropping standards in engineering is appropriate in the midst of this environmental emergency?” he asked.

 

 

In his opening address, Minister for Public Works and Planning, Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said that the Government, mindful of the challenges affecting the construction sector, mainly where human resource management is concerned, will be introducing new laws aimed at improving regulations in the field including those on the licensing of contractors and improving the skills of all workers in the sector. Once adopted, these laws will boost the quality and standards of the construction industry. The Minister added that it is also vital that a safe development process is also energy efficient and considers the needs of the public, particularly the end consumers. He stated that it is time for the Civil Engineers’ profession to take a more leading role in the planning and design processes. They need also to contribute towards helping the country to reach its net-zero target and climate action programmes. Minister Zrinzo Azzopardi stated that a healthy community in a resilient economy will look at these disruptions as an opportunity for change, a change for the better.

 

 

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PR 08/21 | Periti Act to initiate modernisation of the profession

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On Friday, the Kamra tal-Periti, in collaboration with the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects and SACES, organised a conference entitled The Renewal Agenda: Modernisation of the Profession. The event follows the unanimous approval by Parliament, earlier this year, of the new Periti Act: a historic milestone that marks the culmination of a 14 year-long wait.

The Council and the Ministry have now concluded the first tranche of subsidiary legislation necessary to bring several provisions of the act into force, and the transition from the old to the new Periti Act will begin in the coming weeks. This will initiate a long-awaited process of renewal of the profession, with far-reaching effects that will change the way it is structured, as well as the role of the Kamra, the way warrants are conferred, and new obligations on Periti.

 

 

Dr Ian Borg, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, outlined the importance of the new Periti Act, which was the result of intense hard work and perseverance, and how it will facilitate the modernisation of the profession for the benefit of the public.

“We introduced provisions that give a broader sense of legal certainty, accountability, security and transparency in the building and construction industry,” Minister Borg said.

He also emphasised how the new Act is underpinned by the value of striving for quality. “It was time to raise the bar even higher and through the amendments made in the new Act we are promising a more qualitative profession with the highest skilled people.”

The subsidiary legislation, which will be brought into effect in the coming weeks, will bring Malta in line with European Directives concerning the performance of the service of architects and civil engineers in Member States. One of the main benefits of this is that the local professional will become recognised on the same level as European counterparts.

Minister Borg concluded his address by announcing that his Ministry is in advanced talks with the Kamra to allocate funds to build a new digital platform whereby new procedures that will be in place in the coming months can be carried out efficiently and securely. He also pledged his commitment to continue supporting the Kamra and the profession to improve the quality of the built environment and meet the ambitious goals that Government has set regarding the environment and climate change, in achieving which periti will play a crucial role.

 

 

Perit Toni Bezzina, Opposition Spokesperson for Transport and Infrastructure, emphasised the bipartisan nature of the Parliamentary process leading to the approval of the new Periti Act. “We should be truly proud of the political maturity we have displayed in reaching this important milestone,” Bezzina remarked.

Bezzina pointed at the strengthening of the role of the Kamra tal-Periti which, for the past century, has given the highest level of service to the Maltese population. Bezzina went on to state that with the increased responsibility of the Kamra tal-Periti, it can no longer function on a voluntary basis.

“The Opposition recognises the new roles the Kamra was conferred in the law and will thus be ensuring that the Kamra has all the necessary resources to fulfil its new regulatory functions for the benefit of the profession itself, but also for the benefit of all Maltese citizens.”

 

 

In his welcome address, KTP President Perit Andre Pizzuto stated that the need for the renewal of the profession, the construction industry and Malta’s built environment has long been the focus of the Kamra, albeit largely ignored.

He welcomed the fact that political leaders are recognising the need to address the concerns that are adversely affecting quality of life, such as the erosion of the quality of our built environment, the loss of our cultural heritage, the need to introduce proper building and construction regulations, and the need to protect our environment.

Pizzuto explained that renewal is a process that requires a plan with a sequence of coordinated initiatives whose overarching objective keeps in focus the betterment of the profession, the industry and our built environment.

“The Kamra’s renewal agenda begins with the modernisation of the profession,” he remarked.

Pizzuto stated that the Kamra too needed to modernise, not just because of the legislative changes that are being brought about, but also to reflect the values that embody the profession today, while remaining mindful of its legacy.

To mark the beginning of the renewal process, Pizzuto unveiled the Kamra’s new brand identity.

“The Kamra’s new identity, featuring the three pillars of sustainability, reflects the social and cultural aspirations of today, and will serve as a constant reminder for the profession of its responsibility to promote sustainable development that strikes a balance between the economic, social and environmental needs of the country by harnessing and employing its creative and technical competences,” Pizzuto concluded.

 

 

Later in the conference, Pizzuto provided an in-depth review of the changes that will be brought into force with the first tranche of subsidiary legislation.

Presentations on the context that gave rise to the need for the new Act were given by Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, Past President KTP, Prof Alex Torpiano, Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment, and Ms Lucienne Meilak, Director of the Policy Development and Programme Implementation Directorate at MTIP, who played a key role in the drafting and approval of the Act.

 

Perit Dr Amber Wismayer, Vice President and Hon. Secretary, KTP, and Perit Dr Jeanette Muñoz Abela, Council Member, KTP, also gave interventions on specific innovations of the Act.

 

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PR 07/21 | Perit Dr Jeanette Muñoz Abela elected to European Council of Civil Engineers Executive Board

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Perit Dr Jeanette Muñoz Abela was elected to the Executive Board of the European Council of Civil Engineers at the 73rd ECCE General Meeting held on 23rd October 2021.

Dr Muñoz Abela serves as council member of the Kamra tal-Periti (KTP) since 2016 where she acts as its representative on the European Council of Civil Engineers (ECCE), Fédération Européenne d’Associations Nationales d’Ingénieurs (FEANI) and Inġiniera Malta in their General Assemblies as well as a member of the Union Internationale des Architects (UIA) Committee “International Women in Architecture”.

She was also appointed as the Chair of the Permanent Committee on Engineering of the Kamra tal-Periti and is the national representative of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE).

Dr Muñoz Abela is also a lecturer at the University of Malta within the Faculty for the Built Environment and sits on the University Senate (2019-2021), the Faculty Board (2019 – to date) and the Doctoral Committee (2019 – to date).

The Kamra tal-Periti warmly congratulates Dr Jeanette Muñoz Abela on her achievement.

The Kamra tal-Periti would also like to congratulate Dipl. Ing Andreas Brandner on becoming the new president of the European Council of Civil Engineers while expressing thanks and appreciation to Ing. Aris Chatzidakis for his work during the last three years.

The new ECCE Executive Board is composed as follows:

Andreas Brandner President Austria
Aris Chatzidakis Immediate Past President Greece
Platonas Stylianou Vice President / President Elect Cyprus
Helena Endriksone Vice President / Treasurer Latvia
Paul Coughlan Executive Board Member U.K.
Jeanette Muñoz Abela Executive Board Member Malta
Olga Radulovic Executive Board Member Montenegro
Dimitar Natchev Executive Board Member Bulgaria
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PR 06/21 | Human decency before profit

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The construction industry has hit yet another low today should reports carried in the local press be confirmed regarding an as-yet unnamed contractor having unceremoniously dumped a seriously injured worker on the side of a deserted road.

As we discuss ambitious climate change targets, low carbon strategy, and the New Bauhaus Initiative, this incident is a stark reminder that some industry operators are yet to reach basic levels of responsible behaviour grounded in humanity and compassion.

Until contractors are required to possess a licence to operate, which among other things would ensure that they adhere to construction regulations and provide lawful employment, we will never make the quality leap we require. With a licensing regime finally in place, it would be expected that such a contractor would lose said licence and would be unable to operate again should such allegations be confirmed.

The Kamra tal-Periti is aware that the discussion on draft regulations on the licensing of contractors are scheduled to resume at BICC shortly, after having been on hold since May 2019. The Kamra shall be insisting that the new licensing regulations include provisions sanctioning or barring any contractors who were found to be responsible for serious injury or the loss of life of their workmen or neighbours through negligence prior to their coming into force.

 

The industry must send a strong signal to “cowboy” operators that all its main stakeholders shall adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards behaviour which is inhumane, exploitative, and negligent to its labour force.

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PR 05/21 | The revocation of warrants on criminal conviction and the role of the Kamra tal-Periti

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Following the reading of Magistrate Mifsud’s sentence regarding the role of Perit Roderick Camilleri and Perit Anthony Mangion in the tragic death of Miriam Pace, it is pertinent to inform the public about relevant aspects of the law and the role of the Kamra tal-Periti in this regard.

 

Suspension or Revocation of Warrants and Memberships

The most frequent question that the Kamra is receiving from media houses is whether the convicted periti are members of the Kamra and, if so, whether it intends suspending their membership. There are a number of points that need to be clarified for the benefit of the public on this point:

 

1. The Kamra is not an association, a club or a union for architects and civil engineers. It is set up by Law as a regulating body of the profession and to act as an official consultant to the State on matters related to the industry.

2. All members of the profession form part of the Kamra tal-Periti automatically, are subject to its disciplinary procedures, and are obliged to follow its directives and code of conduct.

3. Expulsion from the Kamra would entail expulsion from the profession. Such an expulsion can only happen following the suspension or revocation of a perit’s warrant in accordance with the law. It is indeed the Council’s role to investigate any misconduct of periti and to establish adequate disciplinary measures that may be necessary to protect the public and the reputation of the profession. With the passing of the new Periti Act, the Council will also have the power, after carrying out an investigation, to delegate the conduct of the disciplinary hearings to a Periti Professional Conduct Board.

4. Any disciplinary decision of the Council of the Kamra can be appealed before the Court of Appeal, and thus the Council acts as a quasi-judicial body. In this respect, the Council is obliged to adhere to the principles of natural justice enshrined in the Constitution. These include the right to a fair hearing. Failure to abide by these principles would invalidate any disciplinary decision of the Kamra tal-Periti on appeal.

5. To ensure a fair hearing, the Kamra cannot pronounce itself publicly on the merits of a case until its disciplinary proceedings are finalised. If it does, it would prejudice the relative conduct proceedings.

6. It is also pertinent to point out that a perit can lose his or her warrant in one of two ways:

  • Through a decision of the Council, and eventually of the Professional Conduct Board; or
  • Through a criminal conviction with a prison term of at least one year, even if suspended.

In the latter case, the revocation would be automatic and would not require a specific pronouncement on this point in the judgement.

The role of the Periti Warranting Board is to execute the Council’s or the Court’s decision, as applicable, and has no discretionary powers on these matters.

7. One of the principles of natural justice is non bis in idem; i.e., no legal action can be instituted twice for the same cause of action. In view of this, the Council was unable to proceed with its investigation given that the specific charges were not made known to the Kamra until today.

8. In March 2021, the Court had denied the Kamra’s request to be granted special access to the magisterial inquiry to extract any relevant information for its disciplinary investigation.

9. The Kamra cannot take any ulterior disciplinary measures on points already decided upon by the Criminal Court, as confirmed by its legal consultants and the Office of the Attorney General.

 

 

 

What happens next?

The two investigations which had been hitherto suspended due to the criminal proceedings, will be reopened by the Council to determine the following points:

  1. Establish whether the prosecution or the convicted parties will file an appeal against the judgement. If so, the Council will need to await its outcome and proceed accordingly;
  2. Analyse the charges and judgement to establish whether there are any disciplinary merits not covered by the criminal case, including breach of the code of conduct, breach of a directive of the Kamra, professional misconduct or negligence, and bringing the profession into disrepute.

 

Beyond the merits of the criminal and disciplinary proceedings, the testimony brought before the Criminal Court, particularly that of the Court-appointed experts, has exposed serious flaws within the regulation of the industry that need to be addressed in earnest and with competence. The Kamra shall also continue monitoring the criminal proceedings instituted against the contractor and the worker involved to determine whether they bring to the fore any further systemic failures within the existing chaotic regulatory framework governing the industry.

The Kamra has been campaigning on the need for reforms for several years, and has indeed published its own detailed proposals for reform in May 2019 in line with its legal and moral obligations to advise the State on how best to safeguard the public interest.

More recently, it launched a public consultation on its redraft of the infamous Legal Notice 136 of 2019, which was heavily criticised during the criminal proceedings, and shall shortly be publishing the final amended version having taken on board the feedback it received.

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PR 04/21 | Kamra tal-Periti and OLI – Sistemas Sanitários Establish Collaboration Alliance

The Kamra tal-Periti is delighted to announce the signing of a Partnership Agreement with OLI – Sistemas Sanitários[1] a multi-national company operating in the field of specialised sanitary solutions for innovative building projects.  The Partnership Agreement was signed in March by Perit Ivynne Grixti, Honorary Treasurer of the President of the Kamra tal-Periti and Federica Niboli, Managing Director of OLI – Sistemas Sanitários.

The signing of this agreement forms part of a new strategic direction and business plan embarked upon by the Kamra with a view to increase value to its members in the Architectural Profession.  With this in mind, the Kamra is teaming up with a selected number of leading commercial partners in the building and construction industry with a view to provide value and resources such that the Kamra may play a more effective role with its members and interested stakeholders.

As Partners of the Kamra, OLI – Sistemas Sanitários will benefit from direct exposure with the community of Periti operating in Malta.  In particular, the partner company will have access to KTP social media discussion groups as well as access to events for networking purposes for the purposes of reaching out directly to members of the Profession.   Besides, the Kamra has committed itself to issuing topical fact-sheets to its members on behalf of the Partner to promote their specialised solutions.  Similarly, the Kamra and OLI – Sistemas Sanitários will co-organise specialised training sessions for Periti and their staff on innovative solutions towards water-efficiency.

Speaking at the signing on behalf of OLI – Sistemas Sanitários, Federica Niboli said that the Group is a firm believer in close relations and communications with the architecture profession and this agreement addressed this philosophy.  “We look forward to working closely with the Kamra tal-Periti.  We are certain that the exposure this will give us will result in mutual benefits for the company as well as for the Periti who are set to gain from their exposure to detailed information about the benefits of including our solutions into their future projects”.

KTP President, Andre Pizzuto commented that the Kamra was delighted to form this new alliance with OLI – Sistemas Sanitários.  “We hope that this agreement paves the way for a new approach at the Kamra by which we are able to team up with market players which share our ethos and vision for higher standards and professionalism in the local Construction Industry and in the process enhancing quality of life for the Maltese people both through a finer built environment for Malta.

[1] Background Note on OLI – Sistemas Sanitários

OLI – Sistemas Sanitários, S.A., founded in 1954 in Aveiro, is currently one the European leader in the production of cisterns. A wide range of solutions, such as control plates, in-wall and exposed flushing cisterns, and mechanisms (inlet valves and outlet valves) are sent daily to 80 countries on five continents. OLI flushing cisterns can be found in bathrooms all over the world. A hotel in Malta, an Israeli hospital, a school in Spain, a football stadium in Qatar, a boat Hotel in Peru, or a restaurant in Italy, are just a few examples of landmark projects where OLI products are present. This international recognition is based on innovation, through designing unique technical and user-friendly solutions. OLI´s innovative work has been recognized with several distinctions, namely “Archiproducts Design Awards”, “Good Design”, “Iconic Awards” and “Design Plus”.

Satariano are the official suppliers of OLI.  Over the years Satariano has been entrusted to supply OLI on numerous projects a few of which include:

Malta International Airport, MAPFRE MSV LIFE Offices, Hilton Hotel Malta, Portomaso & Portomaso Business Tower, Portomaso Laguna, MIDI plc, The Westin Dragonara Resort, Eden Cinemas, 14 East, Pender Tower, Dolmen Casino Complex & The Civil Service Sports Club are just a few from their very extensive portfolio.

 

 

 

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Revision of Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations – Public Consultation

The Kamra tal-Periti has drafted a revision to LN 136 of 2019 – Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations – which seeks to address all the recommendations of the Building Industry Technical Committee’s report dated April 2020 and tabled in Parliament by the Prime Minister on 20th January 2021.

The main features of this redraft include:

  1. The distinction between works specifications and method statements
  2. The revision of the role and qualifications of Site Technical Officers
  3. The elimination of provisions that place periti in positions of conflict of interest by having more than one employer
  4. The distinction between tortious and contractual liability, facilitating immediate compensation of damages to third-parties
  5. The introduction of an equitable system for reimbursement of expenses incurred by third parties in reviewing project documentation

The proposed regulations are intended to be brought into force in the short-term, until more comprehensive and better structured building and construction regulations, and the equivalent of the UK’s Party Wall Act are brought into force.

Members of the profession and the public are welcome to submit their feedback on [email protected] by Friday 30th April 2021 at 6pm.