If you wish to carry out works on a tree like prune, remove or transplant it, you need to be aware of the obligations under the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, 2018. First you need to determine what the tree species is, and then check if it is a protected species by law.
Tree species fall under 3 categories:
Strictly Protected Species (under First Schedule Part A Table 1) which are rare species of importance and are protected everywhere. Examples are Oak (Ballut), Sandarac (Gharghar)
Trees which are possible protected under certain conditions
First Schedule Part A Table 2
Trees protected within certain locations that is within protected areas, located Outside Development Zone (ODZ), in green areas and in natural or rural / green enclaves in the development zone. These tree species are also protected in urban public open space or located within protected areas within the Development Zone.
Urban public open spaces comprise roads, road sides, pavements, piazzas, public gardens, parks, cemeteries, roundabouts, central strips and other traffic islands, and ancillary landscaped areas associated with these spaces.
According to the Regulations, the term protected area means any area which is legally protected, scheduled or designated for conservation in view of its ecological, scientific or landscape-related value either through the Environment Protection Act, 2016 or the Development Planning Act, 2016, as well as any Tree Protection Area. Protected areas thus include:
- Natura 2000 sites, both National and International Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
- Tree Protection Areas
- Bird Sanctuaries as listed in Schedule V of the Conservation of Wild Bird Regulations, 2006 (S.L. 549.42) which include all cemeteries and their surroundings within 50m, all public gardens, the Pinetum at Pieta’, Manoel Island, Ta’ Qali, and various other sites located ODZ such as protected beaches
- Areas of Ecological Importance (AEIs) and Sites of Scientific Importance (SSIs)
- Areas of High Landscape Value (AHLVs).
The protection does not cover sites protected for their archaeological or cultural value, albeit these may be covered by additional protective designations as per above.
Part B of the First Schedule
This section specifies a number of other conditions in which trees are protected namely all trees:
- More than 50 years are protected if located in protected areas, in ODZ, within an Urban Conservation Area (UCA) or in an urban public open space;
- Listed in the List of Historical Trees Having an Antiquarian Importance Order;
- Located within Tree Protection Areas;
- Located within a site protected by a Tree Preservation Order or covered by an approved Management Plan for a protected area
- The species Ficus microcarpa within urban public open space.
Alien Species possibly invasive
This schedule of the Regulations also lists trees which are potentially damaging to the environment and which are not protected. Specimens of Eucalyptus sp. are protected in urban public open spaces under the provisions of Part B of the First Schedule. Such species are considered harmful for the local flora and fauna and hence their propagation, planting, import, export and selling is considered illegal. The environmental considerations represented by this schedule are essentially related to rural conservation and ecology, and may not be relevant to urban areas. In this regard, old or mature trees belonging to the listed exotic species (but located in urban areas) still provide a valuable aesthetic contribution to the streetscape and their value as urban ‘green lungs’.
Carrying out interventions on Protected Trees
In order to carry out works on protected trees, a permit from the Authority is required. Permitting procedures are initiated upon the submission of a properly filled-in application form, accompanied by the necessary information and documentation, together with fees as per Schedule 3 of S.L.549.123. Such documentation includes a site plan, a block plan showing the trees on site and their scientific name, photos of the individual trees being intervened upon and in cases where required, a transplanting and compensatory planting plan.
Any completed application should reach ERA at least 21 days prior to when the consent to carry out an activity is required.
Applications may be submitted through the ERIS System which may be accessed from here. It is of utmost importance that all sections of the application form are appropriately filled in and all necessary documentation included. Processing of application forms cannot be completed if there is lack of information.
As part of the application process, ERA discusses the project with the applicant and may require further information or details.
In the case that a permit is not issued, the applicant may seek redress with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal in accordance with the Environment Protection Act and with the provisions of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal Act.
For further information contact ERA on https://era.org.mt/contact/ or phone 2292 3500 during office hours.
Last updated 07/09/2020