After reviewing the Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations draft, the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti (chamber of Maltese architects) together with its team of technical experts issued a preliminary position to all architects, which will be discussed tomorrow at the Extraordinary General Meeting, according to a press statement sent to Business Malta.
The Maltese government halted all demolition and excavation works in the country on 13 June 2019, as an emergency action in view of the recent spate of structural collapses which occurred adjacent to construction sites. The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti considered this measure necessary, due to the potential risks to public safety. Therefore, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that new regulations would be published regarding excavation and demolition works, in order to address a number of issues.
Draft amendments to the Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations were published on Monday 17 June 2019, concerning the following aspects: definition of site responsibilities, increase in insurance cover and requirement for its renewal, the process for the submission of the method statement and condition report — including regarding the need and frequency of geological and geotechnical surveys — exemptions and penalties.
The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti together with its team of technical experts has reviewed the proposed draft and has issued a preliminary position to all the architects. The chamber has also reported as an Executive Summary the following Kamra’s initial reactions, as follows:
- The rush to implement these piecemeal changes to the regulatory regime that governs the building industry is ill-thought. Our regulations and legislative instruments need a complete overhaul, as the Kamra has repeatedly stated since 2007. Attempting to amend the current regulations without having considered their impact on other pieces of legislation as well as on current practices and capacity of the industry is a recipe for further confusion and lack of clarity, rather than addressing the issues of safety which these changes purport to address. Even if the purported aim is to address the dangerous process of demolitions and excavations adjacent to existing properties, the Legal Notice proposes to address all other construction activities, but, at the same time, fails to address the other dangerous process of loading party walls, and their foundations, designed to carry two or three storeys, by many more floors.
- The amendments claim to clarify the roles of the figures engaged on a site. However, there are glaring incongruencies with roles defined in other legislation, and rather than clarifying, the proposals introduce new roles without defining appropriate competences while ignoring the existence of figures already defined in other legislation, such as licenced masons. It also ignores the blatant lacuna regarding the legal obligation for registration of contractors, who are liable, as per Civil Law, jointly with the perit [Maltese word for architect], for the structural integrity of buildings.
- The proposed processes for the submission of method statements, geotechnical investigation reports and geotechnical design reports are cumbersome and more intent on establishing who does them, who submits them, when and to whom, than on establishing the criteria for their preparation. The Kamra is of the opinion that this is a result of the lack of research to understand how such instruments are used internationally, and trying to adapt them to the local situation, with no regard for scale or complexity of projects.
- The proposed draft seems to imply that the measures proposed therein are to apply retroactively to ongoing projects. This will have implications on the capacity of the industry to respond in a meaningful manner.
However, the proposed Legal Notice in its current form is not acceptable. The full version of the Kamra’s analysis on the draft will be published at the end of the consultation process following the EGM.