Ħerba mill-ballut ta’ Ħal-Lija

Is-siġar tal-ballut f’Ħal-Lija dejquhom! Għamlu ħerba biex iwessgħu t-triq, biex jagħmlu l-wisa’ għal iktar karozzi. Bħal dak li qalu li m’hawnx biżżejjed minnhom! Għamlu ħerba għal xejn.

Kif jispjega l-ambjentalist veteran Alfred Baldacchino, kien hemm soluzzjonijiet oħra jekk riedu li bil-fors iwessgħu t-triq. Setgħu faċilment salvaw dawn is-siġar, kieku riedu. Uħud minn dawn is-siġar, probabbilment kellhom iktar minn 100 sena.

Sadanittant, l-Awtoritá dwar l-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi tibqa’ ċassa.

Bezzina’s almond grove

 site-notice-affixed

Planning application PA7854/16 submitted to the Planning Authority by Toni Bezzina PN spokesman on Agriculture, was downright misleading. This was underlined by environmental NGO  Din l-Art Ħelwa in its objection to the application it submitted on 31 January.

Bezzina’s development proposal emphasised that it was a “rehabilitation and restoration of almond grove”. However, on examining the submitted drawings it is immediately apparent that  the proposal actually includes the construction of a basement garage as well as a three-bedroomed villa with swimming pool.

In a normal scenario I believe that the Planning Authority decision-making process would have ultimately resulted in a rejection of such an application. I would not, however, have been surprised if it had been approved, as consistency in the interpretation of planning rules is still an ever-present issue.

The public outcry, however, has pre-empted all this and justifiably focused on the fact that Bezzina co-authored the recently launched PN environmental policy document entitled A Better Quality of Life for You. In that document Bezzina and others, on behalf of the PN, emphasised that development outside the development zone was to be an exceptional step that should only be permitted by Parliament and subject to approval by a qualified majority.

It was reasonably expected that Bezzina, as co-author of the policy document, should have been the first one to honour the commitment made. However he completely ignored it.

To make matters worse he was defended by the Leader of the Opposition who, after ensuring that Bezzina had taken steps to withdraw the application, did his best to minimise the inconsistency.

Unfortunately, this matter brings to the fore a very important consideration as to whether the policy documents issued  by the Nationalist Party have an significance at all. The very fact that PN spokesmen such as Bezzina ignore such documents gives credence to the point made that this was, after all, another PN green-washing exercise to which we have become accustomed in recent years. It is just more of the same.

After examining Bezzina’s application, the Environment and Resources Authority  had this to say:  “The substantial increase in the structure’s footprint and additional land take-up from other commitments, including the enlargement of the entrance, formation of a hard-surfaced access path, the creation of a turning circle, etc. will result in the formalisation of the entire site. Such development is not typical of a rural landscape such as the one in question and thus the proposal is considered to be unfit for the context especially when noting that the site is scheduled as an Area of High Landscape Value (AHLV).”

This is the level of commitment to environmental protection of one of the co-authors of the PN’s environmental policy. You can easily understand the commitment of the rest!

While the publication by the Nationalist Party of its policy document was a positive step,  proof of its commitment is yet to come, if it ever does!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19th February 2017

Marsa: a planning mess

turkish-cemetry-marsa-malta2

The Chamber of Architects has taken the Planning Authority to task on the piecemeal local plan reviews that it has been churning out, one at a time. The latest tirade was with reference to a partial review of The Grand Harbour Local Plan (originally published in 2002) specifically with respect to a Marsa Park Site.

We have just concluded a public discussion on a Masterplan for Paceville, which was shredded by public opinion and sent back to the drawing board.

Earlier, we had the Planning Authority itself contesting whether Local Councils, NGOs and the Environment and Resources Authority  had a right to contest the decision to permit high-rises in Townsquare Sliema and in Imrieħel.

To make matters worse, instead of consolidating the environmental regulatory functions of the state, this government has opted to deliberately fragment them, thereby ensuring their reduced effectiveness by design.  In a small country such as Malta, it pays to have one consolidated authority  directed by environment professionals through whom land use planning responsibilities should be accountable.

Land use planning needs to be more focused but holistic in nature. The Chamber of Architects aptly makes the point that focusing the efforts of the partial review of the Grand Harbour Local Plan specifically on “a Marsa Business Park” without considering this within the context  of a much needed regeneration of Marsa would be a futile exercise. The decay of Marsa as an urban centre needs to be addressed at the earliest opportunity and this will not be done through piecemeal local plan reviews but through comprehensive planning “which ought to include community needs, road transport re-alignment, environment improvement and flooding mitigation measures”.

These are the basic issues which should be addressed by a local plan review concerning Marsa. Tackling major infrastructural and social problems facing the Marsa community should take precedence over any proposal for the redevelopment of the Marsa Park site. It is the whole of Marsa that should be addressed and not just one tiny corner.

The partial local plan review is ignoring the local community, just like its cousin the Paceville Masterplan did some months ago. Many years ago we learned that “planning is for people”. This seems to be no longer the case as, according to the Planning Authority, planning is apparently for business hubs, high-rises and, obviously, for developers. They seem to be very well connected, thereby ensuring that they occupy the first items of this government’s land use planning agenda.

Marsa has been forgotten over the years. With the closure of the Marsa power station now is the appropriate time to consider the various accumulated impacts on the Marsa community in order that an integrated approach to addressing them is identified. Planning is for people. That means that the Marsa community should be actively involved when these plans are being formulated, including at the drawing board stage. Land use planners should stimulate the Marsa community to speak up and involve itself in drawing up a blue print for its future.

The regeneration of Marsa is an urgent matter which should not be left unattended.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 15 January 2017

The farce continues

gas at Marsaxlokk

Tomorrow, the Environment and Resources Authority will meet in public to consider the approval of an amendment to the IPPC permit regulating the operations of the power station at Delimara. It is an amendment to an already existing permit as a result of which a definite decision concerning the switch-over to gas-operated turbines will be taken.

The Environment and Resources Authority has been in operation for some months – since February – but this will be the first time it will be possible to observe it in action in a public session.

Last Thursday the Authority, through its secretary to the ‘Environmental permitting-Development Control Commission’ informed those who had taken part in the public consultation that a 71-page document containing responses to feedback received during the public consultation was available online at http://era.org.mt/en/Pages/IPPC-Public-Consultation.aspx.

We are now accustomed to having important information being made available (if at all) at a very late hour and at a time when most people interested in the Delimara public debate are preparing for a well-earned Christmas break.

The document made available last Thursday afternoon, just one working day before the public hearing, is the only document containing the views of the Authority on the subject, even though these views are mostly expressed telegraphically. At the time of writing, I am not aware of the recommendation which the Environment Directorate has submitted for the consideration of the Board of the Authority, that is whether and to what extent it is satisfied with the documentation submitted for its consideration.

The said documentation runs to over 15,000 pages spread into around 300 files of different sizes which could not be adequately examined during the short time available for public consultation, even though this was slightly extended.

Public opinion is not worried about the change to LNG in the operation of the power station. It is, however, still worried about issues of safety. These worries are compounded by the fact that a document prepared by the Civil Protection Department regarding the External Emergency Plan for the Delimara Power Station has been partly excluded from the public consultation exercise. As already stated in a previous article (TMIS, 27 November: A Secret Plan for Delimara) this runs counter to the provisions of the Seveso III Directive of the European Union which has been transposed into the Maltese Statute book through the Control of Major Hazard Regulations of 2015 which provides that: “The Civil Protection Department shall ensure that the public concerned is given early opportunity to give its opinion on external emergency plans when they are being established or substantially modified.”

The Civil Protection Department is failing in its duty to consult. However, by failing to act on the Civil Protection Department’s dereliction of duty, the Environment and Resources Authority, as the ultimate regulator on the matter, is transforming this failure into an abusive exercise of its authority.

How is it possible to voice your opinion on a document that is still shrouded in secrecy?

This is only possible if what should be public consultation is transformed into a farce. The farce continues tomorrow – Monday.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 18 December 2016

A Secret Plan for Delimara

external-emergency-plan-censored

The Seveso Directive of the European Union is a legal instrument originally enacted in 1982. Subsequently amended, the present version was enacted in 2012 and is referred to as the Seveso III Directive.

Its full name is “Directive 2012/18/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances, amending and subsequently repealing Council Directive 96/82/EC”. It has also been transposed into Maltese legislation through the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 2015.

As the technical name implies, the Seveso III Directive seeks to regulate sites which have the potential for major industrial accidents. It seeks to achieve its aim primarily through prevention but also by planning to minimise the impact of accidents which may occur on such sites.

The Directive was originally enacted as a result of the industrial accident in the Italian town of Seveso in 1976, when toxic fumes emitted from a chemical plant contaminated the surrounding residential area. It aims to improve the safety of such sites, both the safety of the employees working in such sites and the safety of residents, and the commercial communities, in the area.

One such site is the Delimara power station. This site has to follow the rules set out in the Seveso III Directive and in the Maltese regulations which transpose it into Maltese law.

Through these regulations, the Civil Protection Department is responsible for prepare emergency plans to be applied in the event of an accident.  There has to be an internal plan, one that applies to the industrial plant itself, and an external emergency plan, that applies beyond the boundaries of the plant.

The internal emergency plan is drawn up in conjunction with the management of the plant and discussed with the staff. Members of staff are undoubtedly trained not just in the correct running of the plant but also with regard to the protocol they should follow if there is an accident.

The external emergency plan concerns residents and business in the vicinity of the industrial plant. The Seveso III Directive requires that such a plan be subject to public consultation. In fact, regulation 10(5) of the Control of Major Hazard Regulations 2015 states  “The Civil Protection Department shall ensure that the public concerned is given early opportunity to give its opinion on external emergency plans when they are being established or substantially modified.”

Today is, in fact, the closing day for a public consultation exercise organised by the Environment and Resources Authority in respect of the Delimara Power Station. Among the documents which the Authority published for consultation one finds a report entitled External Emergency Plan prepared by the Civil Protection Department. However, the report made available is only part of the full report as the most important part – the part on operational issues – is missing. The available partial-report makes interesting reading, but  we are informed that the censored part has been removed as its availability would be “a threat to national security”.

Those running the Department of Civil Protection are maybe not aware that they have the duty to inform and that in this day and age they have no authority to act as a big brother. The public has the right to be informed and this right is the prerequisite for its active involvement in the formulation and eventual approval of the external emergency plan.

In a democratic society the right of the public to be informed is a basic element of good governance. By opting for secrecy, the Department of Civil Protection has chosen to take a completely different path – one that ignores the citizen and his right to participate in meaningful actions and decisions.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 27 November 2016

Konsultazzjoni pubblika farsa

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Bdiet il-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar il-permess operazzjonali tal-power station f’Delimara. Dan il-permess huwa magħruf bħala IPPC permit. Dan għax ikun ipproċessat skond dak li tistabilixxi d-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja imsejħa Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC).

Bħala parti minn dan il-proċess, ħarġu għall-informazzjoni ta’ kulħadd, 293 rapport ta’ qisien li jvarjaw. Uħud qosra u oħajn donnhom ma jispiċċaw qatt għax fihom mijiet ta’ paġni. Uħud b’linġwaġġ li jinftiehem malajr u oħrajn li trid iddum tomgħod biex tifhem.

Il-konsultazzjoni pubblika oriġinalment kienet intenzjonata li ddum 30 ġurnata, il-minimu meħtieġ skond il-liġi. Wara diversi protesti, dan il-perjodu żdied għal 40 ġurnata. Dan xorta m’huwiex biżżejjed, għax is-sens komun jgħidlek li l-perjodu ta’ konsultazzjoni għandu jkun twil skont kemm hemm informazzjoni xi tkun ikkunsidrata.

Meta t-tul ta’ żmien għall-konsultazzjoni pubblika ma jkunx proporzjonat mal-kwantità ta’ informazzjoni li teħtieġ illi tkun eżaminata, ma nistgħux ngħidu li din il-konsultazzjoni tkun qed issir bis-serjetà. Tkun qed issir għax bil-fors biex tonora l-kelma tal-liġi. Tkun konsultazzjoni taparsi.

Din hi s-sitwazzjoni li qed niffaċċjaw fil-każ tal-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar l-impjant tal-power station ta’ Delimara. Ir-rapporti ppubblikati, fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom jeħtieġu li jkunu eżaminati bir-reqqa biex inkunu nistgħu nifhmu dak li qiegħed ikun propost fihom. Fil-parti l-kbira tal-każi, l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi ilha x-xhur fil-pussess ta’ dawn ir-rapporti, inkluż uħud li forsi dehrilha li kellha tordna li jsirulhom xi tibdil jew inkella li kellhom jinkludu spjegazzjonijiet addizzjonali. L-awtorità taf kemm jirrikjedu żmien biex ikunu eżaminati dawn ir-rapporti, għax l-uffiċjali tagħha ilhom ix-xhur jeżaminawhom!

Hemm eċċezzjoni waħda għal dan kollu. Ir-rapport intitolat External Emergency Plan imħejji mid-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili għandu parti minnu nieqsa. Fil-paġna 21 ta’ dan ir-rapport hemm it-titlu tas-sezzjoni : Section B Operational. Imbagħad fil-paġna immedjatament warajha hemm nota li tinfurmana illi l-kumplament tas-sezzjoni hi nieqsa minħabba illi kieku din l-informazzjoni kellha tkun ippubblikata, din il-pubblikazzjoni tkun ta’ theddida għas-siġurtà nazzjonali.

Din hi farsa. Hi nuqqas kbir ta’ serjetà. L-ewwel jimlewna bir-rapporti u ma jagħtuniex ħin biżżejjed biex naqrawhom, biex  mbagħad dwar dan ir-rapport jiċċensuraw ukoll il-kontenut.

Għalfejn poġġew dan ir-rapport għad-diskussjoni jekk il-parti l-iktar essenzjali għad-diskussjoni tneħħiet? F’soċjetà demokratika dan m’huwiex aċċettabbli. Bla ebda dubju hemm mod kif ikun possibli li tingħata informazzjoni biżżejjed u tkun tista’ issir konsultazzjoni pubblika bis-serjetà mingħajr ma issir ħsara lis-sigurtà nazzjonali.

Irridu naraw kif ser jiżviluppaw l-affarijiet għax huwa  meħtieġ serjetà  ħafna iktar minn hekk jekk irridu li l-konsultazzjoni pubblika ma tkunx farsa.

Ippubblikat fuq l-Illum : 30 t’Ottubru 2016

A farce in the making

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Public consultation on the Delimara operational permit has commenced. This permit has to be issued in terms of the provisions of the EU Directive  on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC).

Feeding this public consultation exercise, last week the Environment and Resources Authority released 293 reports detailing information on different aspects of the Delimara power station. These reports are available on the authority’s website as well as at the offices of Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa local councils. They run into thousands of pages – varying from those which are very short to others which are substantial in length.

Originally, the public consultation exercise was planned to last 30 days – the minimum time  established by law. After a number of protests, this was increased to 40 days, which is still too short,  given the substantial amount of information that must be digested and analysed. Common sense should have dictated a much longer consultation period as the lack of sufficient time to examine the information released will bring into question the validity of the whole exercise.

The  reports require considerable time to be examined in order that their contents are understood in their proper perspective. Most of these reports were submitted to the Environment and Resources Authority many months ago and in the intervening period have been examined by officials of the Authority, who, in a number of cases, requested amendments or additions. These changes were identified by the Authority’s officers as a result of their examination of the said reports over a number of months.

It stands to reason that the Environment and Resources Authority is, on the basis of its own work,  fully aware that the real time required for  this public consultation would be in the region of four months and that anything less is insufficient.

There is, however, one exception. The report entitled “External Emergency Plan” drawn up by the Civil Protection Department, has been censored. A whole section has been removed and, as such, is not being subjected to the current public consultation exercise. Page 21 of the report contains the tile of the section : Section B Operational. On the following page we then have a note which informs us that “Information in the Operational Section (Section B) of this document is being withheld from publication on grounds on national security”.

This is a farce. The most important part of the document that requires dissemination and feedback has been withheld. This report should have been placed in the public domain in its entirety, as it is essential for those members of the public who are interested (or preoccupied) on the issue as they live too close for comfort to the Delimara power station. They  need the whole report in order to be informed and thus be in a position to give their reactions. Familiarity on the part of Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa residents with the Operational Section of the External Emergency Plan would eventually be put into use in the civil protection drills and simulation exercises which have to be organised by the Civil Protection Department on a regular basis at both Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa.

The Civil Protection Department leadership team should realise, even at this stage, that the local population must own the operational plans. These plans will not work if the local population is not aware of at least the basic contents of these plans.

The public consultation process is a basic and essential component of the workings of a democratic society. Tampering with the required information, or unnecessarily restricting the consultation period, will transform it into a farce.

It is for these reasons that the Delimara power station consultation process is a farce in the making!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 30 October 2016

Victor Axiaq : meta ser jirreżenja?

Victor Axiaq

L-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi immexija minn Victor Axiaq s’issa qegħda hemm għal xejn. Suppost li l-Ippjanar infired mill-Ambjent biex flok MEPA għandna żewġ awtoritajiet prinċipalment biex l-ambjent ikun iktar b’saħħtu.

Imma, sfortunatament qatt daqs illum ma kien daqshekk dgħajjef l-amministrazzjoni tal-ambjent f’pajjiżna. Meta hu magħruf li fil-memo mibgħuta mill-Professur Victor Axiaq lil Dr Timothy Gambin l-EIA dwar Townsquare f’Tas-Sliema kien deskritt bħala farsa (a sham) bil-fors tistaqsi għalfejn s’issa l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent għadha ma għamlet xejn.

L-anqas ma kellha toqgħod tistenna sa wara li tittieħed id-deċiżjoni biex l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent tiċaqlaq. Għax jekk kienet taf li l-EIA kien farsa kellha l-obbligu li tiċċaqlaq ħafna qabel. L-anqas biss indenja ruħu jinkariga uffiċjali tal-awtorità li jmexxi biex jippreżentaw il-kaz ambjentali kontra it-torri ta’ Gasan (Townsquare) f’tas-Sliema. Għax dawn l-uffiċjali, nhar l-4 t’Awwissu 2016 kienu preżenti għas-seduta pubblika tal- Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, imma kollha baqgħu b’ħalqhom magħluq. Dan minkejja l-memo li ħejja Victor Axiaq u li inżammet mistura minn Dr.Timothy Gambin.

Kif qalu l-attivisti ambjentali li iddimostraw quddiem l-uffiċini tal-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u Riżorsi dalgħodu :  l-Awtorità hi baħħ. S’issa jidher li biha u mingħajrha xorta. Ma nafx x’inhu jistenna l-Professur Victor Axiaq biex jirreżenja.

Fejn xejn m’hu xejn, m’hemmx konflitt ta’ interess

Timothy Gambin2                        Victor Axiaq

Bħalkom qrajt id-dikjarazzjonijiet tal-Professur Victor Axiak u tal-arkejologu marittimu Dr Timothy Gambin fejn qalu li minkejja li taw il-kontribut professjonali tagħhom fl-EIA tal-Power Station tal-gass f’Delimara huma qatt ma irrappurtaw lill-membri individwali tal-konsorzju.

Huma qalu li jirrappurtaw direttament lill-koordinatur tal-EIA u qatt lill-applikant.

Din il-kontroversja ma bdietx b’Axiaq u Gambin imma ilha sejra is-snin. Ir-responsabbiltajiet ta’ dawk li jħejju l-EIA, irrispettivament lil min jirrappurtaw, m’humiex kompatibbli mar-responsabbiltà li tkun membru tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jew tal-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi.

Ma jagħmilx sens illi fuq kaz jagħmlu r-rapport tal-EIA u ma jeħdux sehem fid-deċiżjoni imma fuq każi oħra jibqgħu hemm. Jeħtieġ li jifhmu illi l-funżjoni tal-membri ta’ dawn iż-żewġ awtoritajiet (Ippjanar u Ambjent/Riżorsi) hi waħda li jgħidulha kważi-ġudizzjarja. Meta terfa’ l-piz li tagħti d-deċiżjonijiet ma tagħżilx inti li f’xi każi tħejji r-rapporti u f’oħrajn tiddeċiedi. Qiesu avukat li għal xi kazi jirrappreżenta lill-klijenti tiegħu u għal oħrajn joqgħod fuq il-pultruna ta’ imħallef!

Ma jistgħux ikunu fuq iż-żewġ naħat, anke jekk jiddefinixxu lilhom infushom bħala “indipendenti”. Għax hekk jippretendu li huma. Indipendenti dejjem. Meta jħejju r-rapport jgħidu li huma indipendenti u meta jkunu fuq l-awtorità biex jiddeċiedu jippretendu li huma indipendenti ukoll. Indipendenti minn xiex?

Fil-fehma tiegħi u ta’ ħafna ambjentalisti oħra, l-indipendenza tal-membri individwali tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar u tal-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi hi kompromessa kull darba li dawn jaċċettaw l-inkarigu li jħejju parti mir-rapport tal-EIA għal xi proġett partikolari.

Iridu jagħżlu. Jew membri indipendenti tal-awtorità inkella esperti indipendenti li jħejju r-rapporti. Imma dawn iridu jagħmlu it-tnejn, kif jgħidu l-Inġliżi: running with the hares and hunting with the hounds!

Kif jista’ membru tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jippretendi li waqt li hu membru ta’ din l-awtorità jibqa’ jipprattika ta’ konsulent dwar l-EIAs? Kif jista’ membru jippretendi li meta titla’ applikazzjoni dwar proġett għal deċiżjoni  quddiem l-Awtorità dwar persuna li kienet “klijent” tiegħu, qiesu ma ġara xejn.

F’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna m’huwiex aċċettabbli li l-membri tal-awtoritajiet ikunu fuq ix-żewġ naħat anke jekk f’każi differenti. Hemm konflitti kbar li m’humiex ser jissolvew bid-dikjarazzjonijiet li għalihom kollox sar sewwa.

Għax saru sewwa l-affarijiet biss, fejn xejn m’hu xejn.

The professor who messed things up

Victor Axiaq

 

Professor Victor Axiaq, Chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, is not at fault for being absent at a Planning Authority public meeting on the 4 August which discussed the Mrieħel and Sliema high-rise applications. By now everyone is aware that he had just been discharged from hospital and was instructed to rest for 15 days.

There were various officers of the Environment and Resources Authority present for the 4 August public meeting, yet instead of entrusting one of them with presenting the environment’s case on the Sliema high-rise, Professor Axiaq preferred to entrust Dr Timothy Gambin with a memorandum which Gambin opted to keep to himself.

There were various environmentalists, Sliema Local Councillors and civil society activists present for the public hearing. Those of us who were present for the public hearing presented the environment case and managed to convince six out of 13 Planning Authority members to vote against the proposed high-rise at TownSquare Sliema. Support for the environment case from a representative of the Environment and Resources Authority during the public hearing would have been most welcome. It could also have had a determining impact.  Yet it was not forthcoming notwithstanding the presence of a number of the Environment and Resources Authority employees at the public hearing.

The split of MEPA into two separate and distinct authorities, we were irresponsibly told by Government representatives some months ago, would ensure that the environmental issues would be more easily defended when considering land use planning applications. Yet prior to the split, an official of The Environment Protection Directorate would have addressed the public hearing. On the 4 August none were invited. The only person who was briefed to speak (Dr Timothy Gambin) opted instead to ignore his brief and instead openly supported the development proposal for a high-rise at TownSquare.

Professor Victor Axiaq, as Chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, missed the opportunity to contribute to convince the majority of members of the Planning Authority due to his two basic mistakes. He entrusted his memorandum to another Planning Authority member (Dr Timothy Gambin) who had opposing views and hence had no interest in communicating Professor Axiaq’s memorandum on TownSquare to the Planning Authority. Professor Axiaq also failed to engage with his own staff at the Environment and Resources Authority as none of those present for the public hearing uttered a single word in support of the case against the high-rise proposal. The person sitting on the chair next to me, for example, preferred to communicate continuously with his laptop correcting with track changes some report he was working on. I have no idea why he even bothered to be present for the public hearing.

Unfortunately, Professor Axiaq, as chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority, messed up the first opportunity at which the input of the authority he leads could have made a substantial difference in the actual decision taken. It would have been much better if a proper decision was taken on the 4 August instead of subsequently considering whether to present an appeal, as this will be an uphill struggle as anyone with experience in these matters can confirm.  This could only have happened if Professor Axiaq had acted appropriately, which he unfortunately did not.

Next Wednesday, the Sliema Local Council will be convened for an extraordinary session in order to discuss the planning appeal relative to the TownSquare high-rise development permit. Environmental NGOs will also be meeting presently to plot the way forward and consider whether they too will appeal the decision.

Even the Environment and Resources Authority will be shortly considering whether to appeal. In view of the way in which Professor Axiaq handled the whole issue, the Sliema Local Council and the environmental NGOs would do well if they do not place any trust in the Authority led by Professor Victor Axiaq. They will avoid ending up in another mess.

After creating this mess, there is only one option left for Professor Victor Axiaq in my opinion. He should immediately resign from his post as chairman of the Environment and Resources Authority. The sooner he resigns the better.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 14 August 2016