Planning application PA00777/22 : another mega-development at Marsaskala

(photo is the official Parliamentary voting record of those voting in favour of the rationalisation exercise: that is those voting in favour of extending the building development boundary into what was then ODZ-Outside the Development Zone)

It would be pertinent to remember that on the 26 July 2006 Malta’s Parliament approved a resolution which we normally refer to as the “rationalisation” exercise, as a result of which extensive stretches of land until then outside the development zone (ODZ) were declared as land suitable for development.

The PN parliamentary group, supported the Lawrence Gonzi led government and voted in favour of developing ODZ land whilst ironically the Labour Opposition had then voted against the proposal. This is not just history. It is still affecting our daily lives. Today, 16 years later some are realising for the first time how land use planning was screwed by the then Environment Minister George Pullicino!

Three of the Members of Parliament who had then voted in favour of developing ODZ land are still MPs today.

Their names come to mind when considering the latest mega-development proposal, this time at iż-Żonqor on the outskirts of Marsaskala, through development application PA00777/22.  The development application this time concerns a 5,000 square metre area of rural land over which it is proposed to construct 135 residential units and 180 basement garages. These will be spread over 10 different levels, four of them below ground floor level after excavating a substantial amount of rock.

The basic decision permitting today’s proposed development was taken on the 26 July 2006 when the rationalisation exercise was approved by Parliament on the proposal of a PN-led government. No studies were then carried out as to the environmental impacts of the development resulting from the rationalisation exercise. Specifically, the cumulative impact of the development proposed was ignored contrary to the then emerging environmental acquis of the EU relative to the assessment of plans and programmes, known as the SEA Directive (Strategic Environment Assessment Directive) which Directive entered into force on the days immediately following the approval by the Maltese Parliament of the rationalisation exercise.

The basic question to ask is whether we really need such large-scale developments. Why are we determined as a country to develop every square centimetre of our land? Isn’t it about time that a moratorium on such large-scale development enters in force?

The rationalisation exercise should be scrapped at the earliest and all rationalised land returned to its former ODZ status the soonest. This is what we should expect of any government which (unashamedly) proclaims that the environment and our quality of life is now its priority.

It has taken our residents 16 years to become sensitised to the large-scale havoc which land use planning has degenerated to.  Throughout these 16 years all genuine environmentalists have been pointing this out. Unfortunately, some only react when large scale development is very close to their backyard, otherwise they do not care. The writing has been on the wall for a number of years, yet it was ignored for quite some time.

One mega-project after the other has been eroding our quality of life, the latest one being proposal PA00777/22 which goes by this description: To excavate and construct 180 garages at basement level, 2 Class 4B shops, and 135 overlying units. The site is at iż-Zonqor, Marsaskala, but it should be everyone’s concern.

It is about time that we stop all this in the same way that the proposed Marina at Marsaskala had to be shelfed, hopefully for good!

published on Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 June 2022

ODZ lessons : from  Żonqor to Għargħur


A planning application (PA3592/16)  to construct a home for the elderly in the area between Naxxar and Għargħur was due to be discussed by the Planning Authority Board on Thursday. Less than five hours before it was due to begin, however, the public hearing was postponed. There may be valid reasons for the postponement but, so far, such reasons – if they exist – are still unknown.

For the past few months, Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party in Malta, has been supporting the residents who are opposed to the development of this privately-owned  home in their neighbourhood since the planning application was first published.

There are various reasons which justify opposition to this proposed development. When faced with such a proposal, the first reactions understandably relate to the direct impact that it will have on the residential community – during both the construction phase and  the operational phase of the proposed facility. During the construction phase, this impact would include excavation noise and vibration, the nuisance caused by airborne dust during construction and the general inconvenience resulting from a large construction site very close to a residential community.

Once the home is in use, the traffic generated at all times of the day – as well as the occupying of residents’ parking spaces by visitors – will be one of the most pressing concerns to justify opposition to the proposal.

These are sensible reasons which justify opposition to the proposed development, even though some mitigation of these impacts is generally possible.

In my opinion, however, before even considering the proposal, it has to be emphasised that the construction of a home for the elderly outside the development zone (ODZ) between Naxxar and Għargħur is a good reason for objection in principle.

On the grounds of social policy, to continue encouraging the institutional care of the aged by way of residential homes does not hold water. It makes much more sense to help the older members of our society to remain in their homes as an integral part of the community, close to their roots, as long as this is possible. This should be the preferred option, rather than forcing them to abandon their roots and move away to the outskirts of our towns and villages.

The Social Policy Ministry harps on about the integration of the elderly in the community while the authority responsible for land use planning is facilitating their segregation. Obviously, somewhere there is a lack of understanding and coordination.

Locating homes for the elderly on the edges of our towns and villages is, in the long term, unsustainable. In addition to fostering segregation, instead of encouraging inclusion, it creates an environmental deficit by encouraging the displacement of a number of the residents of our town and village centres to what is now considered as ODZ land. As a result, this leads to an increase in the number of vacant residential properties while simultaneously adding to the built footprint of the Maltese islands – as if we do not have more than enough developed land!

The 2011 Census identified Għargħur as having a 28.5 per cent residential property vacancy rate. The rate for Naxxar was 24.5. These official statistics, which include both vacant properties and partially vacant properties, will undoubtedly get much worse.

This leads to another argument against the proposal to provide a home for the elderly in this particular area.  How can we justify taking up ODZ land for further development when even the site selection exercise, carried out as part of the application process, identified alternative sites within the development zone?

It seems that not enough lessons have been learnt as a result of the Żonqor debacle.  Is it not about time that the Planning Authority puts its house in order?

Policy coordination between the Ministries concerned with social policy, sustainable development, the environment and land use planning is obviously the missing link and should be addressed immediately.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 25 June 2017

L-ODZ w it-tidwir mal-lewża



Il-proposta tal-PN biex deciżjonijiet dwar l-ODZ jibdew jittieħdu mill-Parlament b’maġġorana ta’ żewġ terzi hi politika ta’ min qata’ qalbu li jista’ jindirizza l-kawza tal-problema u minflok jinfex fl-effett. Hija ukoll dikjarazzjoni li din is-sitwazzjoni mistennija li tkun fit-tul jew permanenti.

Kif diġa kelli l-opportunità li nikteb, id-diżastru akkumulat fl-ODZ hu riżultat ta’ falliment tal-istituzzjonijiet li la l-bieraħ u l-anqas illum ma jispiraw fiduċja. Ir-rapport li kien tħejja mill-MEPA dwar iż-Żonqor u l-posizzjoni li ħadet il-MEPA dwar per eżempju l-pompa tal-petrol li kienet proposta għall-Magħtab huma tnejn mid-diversi eżempji dwar dan.

L-awtoritajiet għandhom l-inkarigu li jipproteġu dak li hu għażiż għalina. F’dan l-inkarigu, b’mod ġenerali fallew. M’għandhomx joqgħodu jistennew liċ-ċittadini individwali jew lill-għaqdiet ambjentali biex jirrealizzaw il-gravità tas-sitwazzjoni.

Il-proposta tal-PN hi politika ta’ min qata’ qalbu għax flok ma tindirizza l-problema tfittex illi toħloq mekkaniżmu li jimblokka d-deċiżjonijiet temporanjament. Għax dik hi r-relevanza tal-mekkaniżmu tal-vot ta’ żewġ terzi fil-Parlament li ultimament jikkonverti ruħu għal deċiżjoni b’maġġoranza sempliċi kif stqarr il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni fl-artiklu tiegħu llum. Issa din it-tip ta’ proposta tista’ tagħmel sens biss jekk tkun għal perjodu qasir ta’ żmien u dan sakemm jitnaddfu l-awtoritajiet u jinħolqu l-mekkaniżmi biex dawn jaħdmu sewwa bla tfixkil jew indħil mill-politika partiġjana.

Dan hu ir-rwol tal-Parlament: li jfittex l-aħjar mod kif ikun amministrat il-ġid komuni u li fejn ikun hemm problema dwar dan jidentifika soluzzjonijiet li jindirizzaw l-issues mingħajr tidwir mal-lewża.

Sfortunatament il-Parlament Malti, tul is-snin wera li hu bla snien fit-twettiq ta’ waħda mill-iktar funzjonijiet importanti tiegħu, dik li jgħarbel il-ħidma tal-Gvern. Din la saret u l-anqas qegħda ssir. Mhux ma issirx sewwa, imma sempliċiment ma issirx għax numru mhux żgħir ta’ Membri Parlamentari għadhom ma fehmux li din hi responsabbiltà tagħhom. Kieku dan fehmuh, dawk il-Membri Parlamentari li aċċettaw ħatriet fuq bordijiet u awtoritajiet ma kienux jagħmlu dan. Għax meta aċċettaw dawn il-ħatriet huma kkompromettew il-ħidma tagħhom bħala Membri Parlamentari għax poġġew lilhom infushom fis-sitwazzjoni ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess kontinwu u dan minħabba li issa suppost li jridu jissorveljaw il-ħidma tagħhom stess.

Din hi is-sitwazzjoni. Bla tidwir mal-lewża l-qagħda tal-ODZ f’Malta u Għawdex hi rifless tal-qagħda ġenerali tal-governanza fil-pajjiż.


fuq dan il-blog, dwar l-istess suġġett ara ukoll :

Froġa oħra ta’ Simon Busuttil.

L-ODZ u l-Parlament.

Simon’s ODZ bluff

Simon Busuttil.Zonqor2


20 January is the closing date for the submission of expressions of interest in response to the call by the Privatisation Unit for the setting up of a Motorsports complex in Malta.

During the press conference that launched the call on 29 September, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Chris Agius emphasised the fact that the choice of location was up to the investors presenting the submissions, even though several sites were proposed in the consultation process leading up to the call for expressions of interest.

However, Sam Collins, writing on 25 April last year on an online motor-racing guide, under the heading Malta eyes Formula 1 with new circuit stated that a “110 hectare parcel of land has been earmarked for the development.”  It is pretty obvious that the as yet unidentified  “110 hectare parcel of land” to be used for this proposed motorsports complex will be situated outside the development zone (ODZ). Each hectare consists of 10,000 square metres, meaning that 110 hectares equals one million, one hundred thousand square metres.

Sam Collins describes the proposal in this manner: “The government documents relating to the circuit’s development point out that part of its purpose would be to attract major international racing series, including Formula 3 and similar classes. The proposed facility would also include facilities for concerts, conferencing and a racing school. A hotel and museum of motoring and transport heritage would also be built on site. Road safety and driver training would play a major part in the facility’s layout, with a dedicated area for these activities. A CIK Kart circuit would also be built alongside the main track.”

The basic question which had to be addressed – but which most obviously has not been addressed so far – is whether Malta can afford to waste this much land. The answer, in my opinion, irrespective of the number of motor-racing car enthusiasts on the island, is clear and unequivocal: Malta cannot waste any more of its limited land.

The sites that have been possibly earmarked are limited in number, as Malta’s size does not present too many options and the impact of the selected site will be substantial, irrespective of its current use.

Development on the  parcel of land selectedcould have a substantial impact on areas of ecological importance that are protected either in terms of local policy or else as a result of EU or international commitments. Knowing that most of the undeveloped land along Malta’s coastline from Bengħajsa right up to Ċirkewwa is protected for ecological purposes, this could be the case, particularly if the identified parcel of land is close to the coast.

The impact could be further increased in view of the possible proximity of the selected parcel of land to residential areas. A specific area, mentioned consistently through the grapevine, would lump these impacts on Malta’s political south, further adding to the disregard for residents’ quality of life in the region accumulated over the years.

There are, therefore, three issues on the basis of which the proposed facility is objectionable: firstly, that Malta is too small for such a development; secondly, that the environmental impact will be substantial and thirdly, that the neighbouring residents’ quality of life, as well as biodiversity and natural resources, will be bartered for short term economic gain.

Depending on the precise eventual location, it may be possible to mitigate and reduce the impact on residents. However, it is most probable that a reduced impact on residents would signify increased impact on natural resources and biodiversity. In my opinion, this signifies that even on the drawing board the project should have been a non-starter.

In recent months we have had the Żonqor “University” debacle. A major sticking point in that case was that the original proposal was to use land situated outside the ODZ and public opinion’s unifying reaction was “No to ODZ development”.

The Parliamentary Opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, took a clear stand against the ODZ Development proposed at Żonqor. Yet in the case of the proposed motor track facility, the Opposition Spokesperson on Sport, David Agius, was invited to be present when the call for expressions of interest was launched. His presence confirms that, notwithstanding Simon Busuttil’s solemn declarations on the sanctity of ODZ land, the proposal for the (ODZ) motor track facility enjoys bipartisan support.

Which means that Simon’s talk on ODZ is just bluff.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3 January 2016

Fl-2015, l-ambjent taħt assedju. Fl-2016 l-assedju ikompli.

msida_water. 021015


Is-sena 2015 kienet waħda li fiha l-ambjent kien taħt assedju. Assedju li bla dubju ser jintensifika ruħu matul is-sena d-dieħla. Għax ma hemm l-ebda dubju li l-aġenda tal-Labour hi waħda kontra l-ambjent.

Bla dubju mument importanti fl-2015 kien ir-referendum abrogattiv dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa. Referendum li intilef bi sbrixx imma li xorta wassal messaġġ qawwi, prinċipalment minħabba li huwa riżultat li nkiseb minkejja li kemm il-PN kif ukoll il-PL dejjem appoġġaw il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

Wara spikka il-każ taż-Żonqor li wassal għal dimostrazzjoni kbira ġol-Belt. Iktar tard il-Gvern ipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li kien qed jagħti kaz u dan billi ċċaqlaq ftit.

Il-qagħda tat-trasport pubbliku matul l-2015 tjibiet ftit imma għadha lura ħafna minn dak li jixraqlu u għandu bżonn dan il-pajjiż. Hi l-unika tama li tista’ tnaqqas il-pressjoni taż-żieda tal-karozzi fit-toroq. Hi l-unika tama għal titjib fil-kwalità tal-arja. Inutli jwaħħlu fil-ħinijiet tal-ftuħ tal-iskejjel.

Matul l-2015 l-ilma tax-xita flok ma jinġabar fi bjar li qatt ma saru, baqa’ jintefa’ fit-toroq. Issa li x-xogħol fuq il-mini taħt l-art ġie konkluż il-periklu fit-toroq ser jonqos għax il-parti l-kbira tal-ilma ser jispiċċa l-baħar. Il-flus li intefqgħu fuq dawn il-mini kienu fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom flus moħlija. Kien ikun iktar għaqli kieku intefqgħu biex l-ilma jinġabar flok biex jintrema.

F’nofs dawn l-aħbarijiet negattivi kollha ġiet ippubblikata l-enċiklika ambjentali tal-Papa Franġisku. Fiha tinħass sewwa t-togħma Latino-Amerikana ta’ Leonardo Boff li tenfasizza r-rabta bejn il-faqar u t-tħassir ambjentali. Hemm tama li din l-enċiklika tista’ tkun ta’ siwi biex iktar nies jiftħu għajnejhom.

F’Ġunju l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni qalilna li l-PN fil-Gvern għamel diversi żbalji ambjentali u li jixtieq li jibda paġna ġdida. Din id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Busuttil tikkuntrasta ma dak li ntqal fir-rapport tal-PN dwar it-telfa fejn ġie emfasizzat li l-PN kien vittma ta’ sabutaġġ minn dawk maħtura biex imexxu (inkluż ovvjament mill-MEPA).

Il-battalja tat-torrijiet għadha magħna. Preżentement hemm pendenti żewġ applikazzjonijiet f’tas-Sliema, waħda f’Townsquare (38 sular) u oħra f’Fort Cambridge (40 sular). Ir-residenti, li bħal dejjem jispiċċaw iġorru l-konsegwenzi ta’ dawn id-deċiżjonijiet, huma injorati.

Kellna t-tniġġiż fil-baħar. Diversi inċidenti fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk li bihom ġie ikkonfermat, jekk qatt kien hemm ħtieġa ta’ dan, li l-Bajja s-Sabiħa m’għandhiex iktar sabiħa. Dan minħabba li issa l-port sar definittivament wieħed industrijali. L-unika ħaġa li jonqos huwa t-tanker sorġut b’mod permanenti fil-port biex fih jinħażen il-gass.

Nhar is-Sibt jorħos il-prezz tal-petrol u d-diesel. Għal uħud imissu ilu li raħas. Forsi kien ikun aħjar li ma raħas xejn. Hemm bżonn kull mezz possibli biex jonqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq. Il-prezz tal-fuel hu wieħed minn diversi miżuri li jekk użati bil-għaqal jistgħu jagħtu frott. Il-problema imma, sfortunatament hi li ma hemmx volontà politika.

IL-MEPA ser tinqasam. L-ippjanar għalih u l-ambjent għalih. Mhux ser isir wisq ġid b’din il-miżura għax is-saħħa amministrattiva li għandu pajjiż żgħir ġejja miċ-ċokon tiegħu. Meta taqsam l-awtorita f’biċċiet tkun ferm inqas effettiv. Hekk ser jiġri. Il-MEPA ma kienitx qed taħdem sewwa għax ma ħallewiex taħdem sewwa. Għax kienet imxekkla minn bordijiet li jew ma jifhmux inkella b’aġenda moħbija.

Dan hu l-wirt li s-sena 2015 ser tħalli lis-sena 2016. L-unika ħaġa pożittiva hi li bil-mod qed tiżviluppa kuxjenza ambjentali fost il-ġenerazzjonijiet li tielgħin.

Is-sena t-tajba? Forsi.

Land use planning : beyond rhetoric

Freeport 2015


There is a common thread running through a number of local land-use planning controversies: they are tending to either ignore or give secondary importance to environmental, social and/or cultural issues, focusing instead on economic considerations.

On this page I have discussed the impact of the Freeport Terminal on  Birżebbuġa a number of times. The basic problem with the Freeport is that its impact on the Birżebbuġa community were ignored for a very long time. In fact, an attempt to include a Social Impact Assessment as an integral part of the EIA which was carried out some years ago was given the cold shoulder by MEPA. The end result was that the decision-taking process was not adequately informed of the impact of the terminal extension, both those already apparent and those which were yet to come. In particular, no assessment was made of the disintegration of the sports infrastructure in the area that has  slowly been eaten up – primarily by the Freeport.

Most of this could have been avoided through an active engagement with the local community over the years at the various stages of the project’s planning and implementation. This is why plans for the Freeport’s expansion, as indicated by the Freeport Corporation’s CEO  earlier this week in an interview with The Business Observer, should be explained  immediately. Even at this early stage it must be ascertained that the situation for  Birżebbuġa residents will not deteriorate any further.

No one in his right mind would deny that, over the years, the Freeport has made a significant contribution to Malta’s economic growth. Few, however, realise that the price paid for this economic success has been the erosion of the quality of life of the Birżebbuġa community. This is certainly unacceptable but it will only get worse, once the gas storage tanker for the Delimara Power Station is parked within Marsaxlokk Bay in the coming months, very close to the Freeport terminal.

The same story is repeating itself in other areas. Consider, for example, the 38-floor tower proposed at Townsquare and the 40-floor tower proposed for the Fort Cambridge project, both on the Tignè Peninsula in Sliema. The Townsquare assessment process is reaching its conclusion, whilst the one in respect of Fort Cambridge is still in its initial stages. Yet both are linked to the same fundamental flaw: the lack of consideration of the cumulative impact of the development of the Tignè Peninsula – which includes the MIDI development as well as the individual small scale projects in the area.

The adoption of plans and policies which have made it possible for the authorities to consider the development of the Tignè Peninsula were not subject to a Strategic Impact Assessment and, as a result, the cumulative impact of implementing these plans and policies were not identified and assessed. The end result is that the proposed towers are justifiably considered as another disruptive and unwelcome intrusion by the Tignè and Qui-Si-Sana communities.

The developers and their advisors focus exclusively on the impacts which are generated by their proposals, with the authorities generally avoiding the consideration of the big picture at the earliest possible stage.

Preliminary indications from the proposed Gozo Tunnel and the Sadeen “educational” setup at Marsaskala/Cottonera are already pointing in the same direction. In both cases, the alternatives that were generally brushed aside are the very options that need to be examined in detail in order to ensure that the challenges that will be faced in 2016 and beyond have not been prejudiced by myopic considerations in 2015.

Planning failures have serious consequences on those of our local communities that have to bear the brunt of the decisions taken for a long period of time. These can be avoided if the authorities refocus their efforts and realise that the economy is a tool which has to be a servant, and certainly not a master.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 20 December 2015

Marsaskala teħtieġ il-latrini

Sadeen clientelism


Ma nafx kif ma staħax is-Sindku ta’ Marsaskala iħabbar waqt laqgħa tal-Kunsill li wasal fi ftehim mal-Grupp Sadeen li ser jibni l-uffiċini l-ġodda tal-Kunsill fi Ġnien Santa Tereża. Il-Grupp Sadeen qed jippjana li jibni l-Università Amerikana taż-Żonqor

Jidher li is-Sindku wasal fi ftehim dwar iktar għajnuna din id-darba infrastrutturali: fosthom il-bini ta’ żewġ latrini.

Ovvjament jidher li ser ikun hemm bżonnhom il-latrini f’Marsaskala.




L-ODZ u l-politika b’żewġt uċuħ ta’ Simon Busuttil

David Agius + Simon Busuttil

Il-politika onesta ta’ Simon Busuttil u l-PN tidher ħafna fil-mod kif jitkellem u jaġixxi l-Partit Nazzjonalista dwar l-ODZ (jiġifieri ż-żona barra mill-linja tal-iżvilupp).

Għamilna ġimgħat b’Simon Busuttil jgħidlna kemm hi għal qalbu l-ODZ. Qalilna kemm hu neċessarju li nħarsu l-ODZ u għaldaqstant bid-dmugħ tal-kukkudrilli huwa ukoll oppona l-proġett taż-Żonqor għall-Università Amerikana. Bosta esponenti tal-Partit Nazzjonalista attendew għad-dimostrazzjoni fil-Belt bi protesta kontra l-proposta tal-Gvern li sa dakinnhar kienet dwar 9 ettari ta’ art (jiġifieri 90,000 metru kwadru) ODZ.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista organizza ukoll attività politika ġewwa ż-Żonqor fejn ipprova jimmanipula d-dikjarazzjonijiet ambjentali tal-Membru Parlamentari Laburista Marlene Farrugia.

Imma l-ġimgħa l-oħra l-Partit Nazzjonalista wera l-wiċċ l-ieħor tiegħu: il-wiċċ veru moħbi taħt il-maskri tal-ipokrezija politika.

Wara li pprotesta favur l-ambjent, issa kien imiss li l-PN jagħti appoġġ lill-proġett ta’ natura kompletament differenti. Għaldaqstant il-PN bagħat lil Onorevoli David Agius kelliemi tiegħu għall-Isports biex dan jirrappreżenta lill-Opposizzjoni fl-okkazjoni tal-bidu tal-proċess tal-espressjoni ta’ interess għal ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi. Proposta li tista’ tibla 80 ettaru ta’ art, jiġifieri 800,000 metru kwadru ta’ art fl-ODZ.

L-appoġġ tal-PN għaċ-ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi hu ankrat fil-programm elettorali tal-PN għall-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013. Programm li nafu li kellu sehem mhux żgħir Simon Busuttil, fit-tfassil w il-kitba tiegħu, u dan meta kien għadu Viċi ta’ Lawrence Gonzi.

Din hi l-politika onesta ta’ Simon Busuttil? Jgħid le għall-iżvilupp ta’ 90,000 metru kwadru ODZ imma jagħlaq għajnejh għal proposta li tista’ twassal biex 800,000 metru kwadru ta’ art ODZ jinbelgħu miċ-ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi.

Din hi l-politika ġdida tal-PN : politika ta’ żewġt uċuħ.

If pigs had a vote


The latest shots in Malta’s environmental siege that followed so soon after the Żonqor debacle, were fired earlier this week by Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius who, accompanied by PN Sports spokesperson David Agius launched a call for expressions of interest in connection with the Concession for the Design, Build and Operation of Motor Recreation and Education Park.

The call specifies the functions which must be fulfilled, namely national and international motor racing events, motor sport training and other related activities including motor research and development. Ancillary activities deemed to complement the project can also be included.

The terms of the call are very wide such that it is ensured that those responding would have sufficient flexibility. The proposed site has not been selected yet, although, as declared by Parliamentary Secretary Agius, the government is aware of the available potential sites due to it having been lobbied by motor racing groups for quite some time. TVM news stated on Tuesday that three specific sites have been identified. From other sources it is known that one of the sites is in Ħal-Far while a second one lies in the limits of Siġġiewi. The location of the third site is so far unknown.

On Thursday, Siggiewi Mayor Karol Aquilina commented that the area known as Ta’ San Niklaw, close to id-Dar Tal-Providenza Siġġiewi, which, he said, was potentially being considered as a candidate site. I think that it is highly unlikely that the Siġġiewi site would be selected in view of the fact that all indications in the past three years have pointed towards the Ħal-Far area as the preferred location. But one never knows.

The call does not limit the site area. Motor racing enthusiasts are speaking of approximately 80 hectares of land which would be required for a three to five kilometre racing track as well as the ancillary facilities. In 2013, during the electoral campaign, the footprint referred to was much smaller, around half the size.

The call for expressions of interest refers to protection of the environment, protection of cultural heritage, long-term sustainability of the project as well as adherence to Natura 2000 protection criteria. Interestingly, however, the call makes no commitment to protect agricultural land. This may be very indicative as to what lies in store.

The scale of the project and its uptake of land, is massive by Maltese standards. It is also out of proportion to the size of the Maltese islands.

Irrespective of the selected site, the land used will undoubtedly include large areas of agricultural land still in use. In good time we will also be informed that abandoned agricultural land will also be incorporated into the project. In such a large area, most of which has never been substantially disturbed, it is also inevitable that some archaeological remains will surface.

There are also issues of air quality and noise pollution. These impacts will be of relevance to communities closest to the selected site. The submitted proposal will undoubtedly include mitigation measures, in particular those relative to noise pollution. Residents have votes and as a direct consequence of this fact there will be a concerted effort to minimise the impact of noise in residential areas. The extent to which this is successful and/or acceptable can only be established when the exact parameters of the proposal are known. Noise pollution will, however, be a major issue irrespective of the identified site.

The Habitats Directive of the European Union is applicable to a number of areas in the Maltese islands. Through the implementation of this Directive, it is not only the specific sites which are afforded protection. This protection extends beyond the sites to activity in the area surrounding the sites in so far that the said activity will have an impact on the protected sites.

The proposals to be submitted will have an impact on nocturnal natural life on the selected site and its surroundings. Such nocturnal life is heavily impacted by both noise and light pollution which will result from motor sport activities .

Farm animals in the vicinity of the selected site will also be in for a hard time. Noise pollution from the racing track will have a considerable impact on the operation of farms as well as on farm animals.

Pigs, cows and birds do not vote. If they did we would definitely not need to worry about ODZs any more.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 4 October 2015

Simon irid ċans.



Nhar il-Ħadd quddiem il-binja tal-Parlament Simon tkellem dwar it-tmexxija ħażina tal-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph. Simon irid ċans. Irid iċ-ċans li jwettaq il-bidla li wiegħed Joseph u li m’għamilx.

Ma tistax ma taqbilx miegħu, mhux hekk? B’differenza waħda.

Għax jekk ġustament tasal għall-konklużjoni li Joseph qed imexxi ħażin, b’daqshekk ma jfissirx li Simon hu s-soluzzjoni. Simon għadu mdawwar b’ħafna minn dawk li kellu madwaru Lawrence Gonzi. Għax għalkemm ir-responsabbilta politika intrefgħet minn Gonzi, fir-realtà t-tort mhux tiegħu biss iżda (ukoll) ta’ dawk kollha li kellu madwaru li qalulu iva fil-Kabinett u fil-Parlament. Dawn, ħafna minnhom għadhom hemm. Bħala d-delegat speċjali ta’ Lawrence Gonzi Simon dan jafu sewwa.

Dan hu l-passat li Simon ma jixtieqx li jitkellem dwaru. Imma hu passat li qiegħed hemm. Għax hu l-kaġun tal-preżent. Għadu frisk wisq, u bosta mhux ser jinsew malajr, avolja Simon jixtieq jinsieh.

Insemmi eżempju wieħed minn ħafna.

Simon jidher li impressjona ruħu bl-ikbar dimostrazzjoni favur l-ambjent – dik dwar iz-Zonqor. Meta Simon kien Brussels kellna ħafna minnhom dawn id-dimostrazzjonijiet dwar il-frejjeġ ambjentali tal-Gvern immexxi minn sieħbu Lawrence Gonzi. Dan m’huwiex biss il-passat, iżda huwa ukoll parti mill-kawża tal-agunija ambjentali li minnha għaddej il-pajjiż illum.