Overdevelopment of the Tigné peninsula

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by Carmel Cacopardo

published on April 10, 2010

The publication of the State of the Environment Report (SoER) for 2008 is an opportunity to take stock of the manner in which environmental responsibilities are being shouldered or neglected. One point the SoER fails to inform about is the link between overdevelopment and a negative social and environmental impact on the community.

Tigné peninsula in Sliema is a suitable example.

Two of the mega-projects in Tigné, namely the Midi and Fort Cambridge projects, have government fingerprints. The social and environmental impacts on the Sliema community more than outweigh the economic benefits derived. Yet, they have been given the go-ahead. While these two mega-projects were approved by Mepa, a third (Townsquare) is being processed. Other projects of various sizes and impacts have been approved or are in the pipeline both in Tigné and in other parts of Sliema.

Focusing on the macro-scale, three main issues need to be addressed: vacant dwellings, traffic generation and the quality of air.

In my opinion, given the large number of vacant dwellings, further large-scale development is not required. About 54,000 vacant dwellings were identified during the 2005 census and this number has been on the increase ever since.

Newly-constructed dwellings may or will be occupied but they are still the cause of a disintegration of the existing urban fabric in various localities as a result of an internal migration away from existing settlements.

Some areas are being depopulated, awaiting their turn to be demolished and redeveloped after someone makes a quick buck. The few remaining tenants are then squeezed out by “developers”. Some years back, an old lady at The Strand, Sliema, was faced with buildings being demolished all around (and above) her home in order to persuade her to move out.

This is resulting not just in urban decay but also in the forfeiture of an accumulated social capital.

This is not surprising in a society that only appreciates financial capital. Unfortunately, public authorities are on the same wavelength.

The 710 vehicles on the road per 1,000 population (2008 figures) is substantial. In a small country, rather than being a sign of affluence, this vehicle per capita ratio is the clearest indicator of the failure of public policy to address issues of sustainable mobility over the years. Past governments have been ineffective in this respect. The large number of dwellings being constructed at Tigné peninsula begs the question as to where the substantial additional traffic generated is to be accommodated. I am referring to both the traffic directed at the new residences and that directed towards the new commercial outlets. Roads in Malta are already bursting at the seams.

When Mepa is approving more intensive development through the construction of high-rise buildings, it is not giving sufficient weight to these impacts. In particular, it is ignoring the cumulative effects of so large a number of developments in so restricted a space.

A Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) of the local plans and planning policies would have pinpointed these shortcomings had it been carried out. Yet, the government tried to wriggle out of its responsibilities by clinging to a loophole, which exempted it from applying the SEA to policies on land-use planning. This has been done by a government that boasts about the central importance of the environment in its electoral platform. Yet, when push comes to shove, it wriggles out of its commitments.

Quality of air data is only made available relative to 2006 and 2007 in the SoER indicators.

Limiting my comments to the 2007 data relative to the Msida station, the available SoER indicators clearly show that PM10 measurements exceeded the EU limits on 24 per cent of the days measured and were very close to the permissible limit of 50μg/m3 with respect to the rest.

PM10 measures particulate matter, having a diameter not exceeding 10 microns. The primary source of such particulate matter, as is also emphasised by the SoER indicators, is fuel combustion from traffic and power generation. It is therefore clear that heavy traffic increases the incidence of PM10 with the consequent risks of a greater incidence of respiratory diseases. Studies carried out in Fgura and Żejtun in the 1990s point in this direction too.

These are the risks posed by an increase in traffic in an area such as Sliema, which is already heavily congested.

The issue of development has so far been considered within the framework of the rights of the owners of the property to be developed. It is about time that the rights of the community are factored in as, to date, they are not being given sufficient weight. In particular, the cumulative impacts of development are being ignored. This is applicable not just to Sliema but to all Maltese territory.

The net result is a quality of life which could be much better.

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3 comments on “Overdevelopment of the Tigné peninsula

  1. I’ve always been concerned about the over-development of Malta, especially with the amount of vacant buildings. But how do you address this issue, do you tax the owners of these vacant properties? What incentive do you give someone to offload a property that they refuse to sell because they believe it is worth far more than the market allows? There needs to be legislation that forces these 20 odd family members to sell these properties whether they disagree or not amongst themselves. They sit on these properties for decades, where members of the family either immigrate or pass on to another generation of people that hate each other enough to stop the others from getting their share. Maybe legislation where property can only by owned by one person.

    Secondly, the transport situation is another area where incentives to clean up the roads by introducing a points scheme has failed to materialise. One of the easiest ways to start cleaning up our roads, is to start punishing the abusers. Start knocking off points for illegal parking, driving abusively, etc. Force them back to traffic school, it’s the best way to punish someone that doesn’t care about paying tickets, wasting their time is a far better solution. These delivery trucks that seem to clog our arterial roads on a daily basis by stopping in the middle of the road to drop off a box of pasta need to be addressed, it will reach a situation like mainland Europe where you can’t get a delivery job without having a clean license.

  2. The decision not to carry out a stategic environment assessment says a lot about Gonzi’s agenda. The SEA is an indispensable tool for safeguarding the environment; when the PN government avoided carrying it out, there is no doubt that it did so to protect the usual suspects.

  3. I wonder if the Minister responsible for MEPA and Development reads the very interesting articles penned by Perit Cacopardo?
    If so then what’s keeping him from taking him on board? surely such a move would be in the interests of everybody. We need real professionals to safeguard our environment, our health, our future.
    Do we really have to allow speculators (backed by unscrupulous rogues) to continue wreaking one environmental sacrilege after another?

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