The government has announced that permits for excavation and demolition of buildings have been suspended indefinitely, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.
Muscat said that a public consultation process will start next week and also announced that fines for any infringements will be increased.
The measure to suspend demolition and excavation work was taken today by the Building Regulations Office in the wake of another collapse of a building in Pieta. In cases where any stoppage could lead to more danger, an application needs to be filed for the work to continue.
It comes just two days before demolition and excavation works in tourist areas listed by the Malta Tourism Authority are stopped for the summer, a measure that is put in place every summer. With Muscat’s announcement, all demolition and excavation work – in all of Malta, not just in tourist areas – will be stopped for an indefinite period.
Muscat today met stakeholders in the building industry, a meeting which was set up following the collapse of a building in Mellieha last week.
Addressing the media following the meeting, Muscat announced the number of proposals and a timeline of measures which the government will be implementing as of today.
“Next Monday there will be the launch of a public consultation on the number of proposals we have regarding the construction industry”, said Muscat. He said that the consultation period will end the following Friday, with the aim of having the legal changes approved by cabinet before they can be tabled in parliament the following week.
Muscat said that fines for contractors not following the required instructions in the project’s method statement will increase from €500 to €10,000. The fines for contractors who continue to work even if he has been notified to stop, will go up from €1,200 to €50,000, he said.
He said that another measure will require an architect or site manager to be on site whenever a crucial and important decision has been taken. “Their presence on site must be documented and this measure goes over and above the current requirements. The government cannot police all sectors on the island, which is why there are professionals to take these important decisions.”
Muscat said that the new rules would be proposing geological surveys in cases when excavation is necessary. He said that currently, geological studies are required only in cases where excavation works deeper than three metres are being proposed. “Currently, the majority of major projects already follow this standard practice, but now this requirement will be across the board.”
He stressed that there are already numerous laws in place regarding the construction industry, yet the country cannot turn a blind eye to accidents. “We are here to have a number of discussions to make sure that we come to a decision and understanding between us.”
The PM said that the Building Industry Consultative Council will be meeting the stakeholders on Friday to continue discussions.
Muscat said that a point was raised during the meeting that accidents were taking place in relatively small sites, as there was a tendency that regulations are followed more in bigger projects. But regulations need to be followed everywhere, the PM said.
He said that work is ongoing for the setting up of the Malta Building and Construction Authority which will take incoroprate all entities responsible in the construction industry under one roof.