Stefan-Zrinzo-Azzopardi

Minister for Public Works and Planning Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi is insisting that the building and construction industry needs to undergo significant reforms to bring itself in line with regulatory and social expectations, making pointed comments aimed at “the professional body” which needs to understand that “this is not an option”.

This is understood to be a dig at the Malta Developers Association (MDA), even though this is not technically a professional body.

The MDA has long spoken against what it describes as a growing and unnecessary administrative burden, recently going on the record to complain of lengthy delays in the issuance of permission to commence works.

The delays are being caused by new rules introduced following the public inquiry into the building collapse that claimed the life of a woman, Miriam Pace, in 2020.

However, MDA president Michael Stivala has argued that the changes effectively “muddy the waters of responsibility”, saying: “Everyone is responsible, so no one is responsible.”

Speaking at the launch of the third edition of advisory firm Grant Thornton and real estate agency Dhalia’s landmark report on the local property market, Minister Zrinzo Azzopardi said that communities need to suffer less of an impact when projects take place in the vicinity.

Central to this push for greater accountability is the long-promised, and seemingly imminent, register of contractors working in excavation and demolition.

“The need for the obligatory registration of contractors is pressing, and it definitely needs to be introduced,” said the Minister, who described it as a “major change” that has attracted a “high level of public interest”.

Turning to the need for sustainability, he noted that its incorporation into the planning, design and construction process requires behavioural change by developers, contractors and consumers.

“There needs to be an increased focus on the upgrading of standards,” Minister Zrinzo Azzopardi said.

Admitting that this will not be easy, he said the Government would support the process by improving vocational training and introducing new skills.

“In this way, we are going beyond mere regulatory measures and providing assistance to make the shift an effective one,” he said.

He added that financial feasibility assessments will in future also depend on a building’s green credentials, and re-stated his commitment to enact a reform to the way Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) are drawn up, “to reflect the requirements and realities of today”.

A public consultation on the revised EPC will be issued in the coming months, he said, with the new-and-improved document expected to play a central role in determining the availability of finance.

“It is pointless to talk about more energy efficiency without the action to back it up,” he said. “The professional body needs to understand that this is the way to do this. This is not an option.”

He ended with a parting shot leaving little doubt as to the intended recipients of his speech: “I want to send a clear message, particularly to developers. We need to improve the way projects are carried out. Together, we can make this paradigm shift happen.”

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