‘Stop breaking the law, leave 76cm!’ – Commissioner for Environment and Planning

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Architect Alan Saliba who also serves as the Commissioner for Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman reminded that the Civil Code precludes any developers from excavating within 76cm of a common wall. He underlined that whoever does not do this, would be breaking the law.

On the other hand, Malta Developers Association President Sandro Chetcuti claimed that some architects have allegedly told him, that it could be dangerous if a 76cm distance is left when excavating.

Saliba was speaking during current affairs programme Newsline aired on 103FM presented by Fr Joe Borg and resident guest Peppi Azzopardi.

Saliba as the Commissioner for Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman had already expressed its concern at the present situation, in a letter sent to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat last Monday. During the programme he referred to Article 439 in the Civil Code which precludes any developer from carrying out any excavations within 76cm of common walls.

“Sometimes neighbors forgo the rights”

Saliba maintained that 76cm is the minimum distance as there exist cases where the distance required is greater than that.

He explained that it has become common practice for residents to forgo their rights in return for monetary compensation, a practice which in his letter to Muscat he pointed out that this is illegal as well as a public safety concern. He remarked that ‘it is a pity that some people enter into such agreements putting themselves and others in danger in return for monetary compensation’.

He further added that since the law is found in the Civil Code, one is required to file a warrant for inhibitory injunction which would require time and would require one to seek the services of a lawyer and an architect.

“Money became god”

Peppi Azzopardi during his intervention said that money became god in Malta. He maintained that children and youths in Malta have learnt that one succeeds when they have money however they did not learn that money does not buy happiness. This, according to Azzopardi has led people to enter into agreements which are not legal. He also referred to construction site injuries and fatalities.

“The 76cm rule can pose a risk” – Chetcuti

MDA president Sandro Chetcuti said that the 76cm allowance was done with buildings without a basement in mind. He argued that when digging to make way for a basement such an allowance can pose a risk, as the house is being build over a small surface. Saliba argued that the 76cm rule is a minimum and an architect may decide to have a wider space left between the common wall.

According to Chetcuti, if the Association had power, it would warn those contractors who do not follow the rules, and if they fail to remedy they would be prevented from working.

“Do your part”

Saliba referred to the recent government announcement which said that a bill on construction will be put forward on Monday. He urged the public to participate in the five-day consultation period which will open from Monday up to Friday. He warned that he will be submitting his proposals and recommendations in this regard, which he described as “harsh”.

The architect informed that all those who require the assistance of the Ombudsman can either visit its website or call on 2248 3200. For those who would like to visit the Office of the Ombudsman, it is situated in 11 St Paul Street, Valletta.