Marsaskala: the yacht marina strings

The publication by Transport Malta, last week, of a pre-qualification questionnaire relative to the “award of a concession contract for the design, build, finance, operate, maintain and transfer of a marina” at Marsaskala requires further explanation. What has been going on behind the scenes? Specifically, on whose initiative has the ball been set rolling? Is this part of the ongoing development spree, intended to bolster existing or planned development elsewhere in Marsaskala?

At some point the truth will come out. It would be hence much better if Transport Malta, and whosoever may be pulling the strings, to put all the cards on the table now.

The proposed Marsaskala yacht marina is tainted, even at this stage, with the general local plan defects: a lack of adequate environmental assessment. The assessment of the cumulative impacts of the various local plan proposals has never been carried out. These impacts add up and seen together they should have been cause for concern, even at the drawing board stage. Unfortunately, nothing was done at that stage to mitigate the anticipated cumulative impacts of the local plan proposals.

Those of us who have been subjecting land use planning to a continuous scrutiny, have, since way back in 2006, emphasised that the local plans were then not subjected to the emerging Strategic Environment Assessment procedures. In fact, the local plans, those still pending approval, after having been retained in draft form for some time, were rushed through all the approval stages during the summer months of 2006 specifically to avoid being subjected to the provisions of the Strategic Environment Assessment Directive of the EU which entered into force during August of 2006 or thereabouts!

The specific impacts of the proposed yacht marina will undoubtedly be eventually analysed by an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which will be triggered if a planning application for the yacht marina is eventually submitted.  Legislation in force provides ample room for involvement of all, when this commences, starting off from the basic EIA terms of reference right up to the consideration of the detailed studies, and more. We have been through that many times in respect of various development proposals.

However, the cumulative impacts on the Marsaskala community, both residential and commercial, will not be carried out as that was avoided at the outset when the local plan for Marsaskala (part of the Local Plan for the South) was approved. This is the basic underlying worry expressed in not so many words by all those who have stood up to object to the sudden unexplained intrusion of Transport Malta into Marsaskala affairs. Kudos to John Baptist Camilleri, Marsaskala local councillor, for prodding the Marsaskala Local Council to stand up and be counted. The Marsaskala local council ought to have been consulted even in terms of the Local Council Act which makes it incumbent on central government and its agencies to consult with local councils whenever any initiative having local impacts is being considered.

Transport Malta is acting as an agent of central government. Government, led by the Labour Party, has conveniently distanced itself from the political responsibilities which result from the local plans , coupled with the rationalisation exercise, which have been shouldered by its predecessor in government, the Nationalist Party.  It has been very convenient for Labour to politically lump all the local plan fallout on the PN. However, sixteen years down the line, it is pretty evident that the Labour Party, in government for over eight years, has been very reluctant to handle the long overdue revision of the local plans and factoring in considerations resulting from a study of the cumulative impacts abovementioned. This is not only applicable to the local plan relative to Marsaskala, but to all local plans! It has obviously been too hot to handle.

Minister Aaron Farrugia, politically responsible for both land use planning and the environment, has been reported in the media, in the past few days, as stating that the local plan revision will start immediately after the general election, expected shortly. He has stated that the process will take around three years.  His predecessor as Minister responsible for land use planning, Ian Borg, had made some statements in the distant past about this, indicating the then parameters for a revision of the local plans. But nothing has materialised yet except his extreme reluctance to act!

I would, at this stage, remind the Hon Minister of the proposals from the Maltese Greens on the need to reverse the rationalisation exercise as well as on the urgent need to implement a moratorium on large scale development throughout the islands. These proposals have been part of our electoral manifesto repeatedly since 2006. Over-development and the building industry have to be brought under control the soonest.

It is not just about Marsaskala and its proposed yacht marina.  It is time to take stock of the ruin inflicted on these islands by a mismanaged land use planning process, by an irresponsible rationalisation exercise and by local plans which do not consider cumulative environmental impacts.

The proposed yacht marina at Marsaskala is just the latest example of this mismanagement.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 22 August 2021

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.

 

 

 

It-toroq tagħna wkoll

 

AD.cycling

Il-bieraħ, it-Tlieta, flimkien ma Ralph Cassar, Segretarju Ġenerali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika kif ukoll ma’ rappreżentanti tal- Bicycling Advocacy Group (BAG) indirizzajt konferenza stampa f’Marsaskala dwar id-deċiżjoni tal-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaskala li jneħħi għal kollox il-passaġġ għar-roti (cycle lane) fi Triq is-Salini.

Ngħiduha kif inhi: il-passaġġ kien wieħed part-time, għax ma kienx jista’ tintuża kuljum u f’kull ħin, u dan apparti meta kien ikun imblukkat mill-karozzi. Il-passaġġ seta jintuża biss matul il-ġimgħa sal-ħamsa ta’ waranofsinnhar. Ovvjament dan kien fil-ħin li l–parti l-kbira tan-nies tkun għax-xogħol. Allura hu ovvju li ftit intuża jekk la wara l-ħin tax-xogħol u l-anqas fi tmiem il-ġimgħa ma seta jintuża.

Flok ma tejjeb il-passaġġ tar-roti u estenda l-ħin li fih seta jintuża, l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaskala neħħieħ għal kollox. Għamel dan bla ma ikkonsulta ma ħadd. Qiesu li t-toroq huma għall-karozzi, biss.

Hija ħasra u riżultat ta’ nuqqas ta’ viżjoni fit-tul li l-Kunsill ta’ Marsaskala, minflok ma’ jżid il-faċilitajiet għal forom ta’ trasport differenti kif ukoll għal eżercizzju fiżiku fi spazji pubbliċi, ineħħi l-uniku triq mal-kosta f’żona urbana b’passaġġ għar-roti.

 

B’din id-deċiżjoni l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Marsaskala qed jagħti messaġġ ħażin.  M’huwiex jifhem li anke jekk il-passaġġ kien wieħed part-time kien fih innifsu messaġġ simboliku ta’ inkoraġġiment liċ-ċiklisti u liċ-ċikliżmu. Kien messaġġ favur l-użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport. Messaġġ qawwi kontra l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku. It-toroq, wara kollox huma tagħna wkoll, mhux tal-karozzi biss.

F’pajjiż żgħir bħal tagħna fejn id-distanzi bejn lokalità u oħra fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom huma żgħar huwa importanti li ninkuraġġixxu ċ-ċikliżmu. Meta nagħmlu dan inkunu qed nagħtu kontribut għal kwalità tal-arja aħjar kif ukoll inkunu qed innaqqsu l-kontribut tal-pajjiż għat-tibdil fil-klima kif ukoll nieħdu ħsieb ta’  saħħitna.

Biex naslu irridu ntejbu l-infrastruttura meħtieġa għaċ-ċikliżmu. Fosthom iktar passaġġi għar-roti u bicycle racks (fejn jintrabtu r-roti).

Illum qabel għada. Għax it-toroq huma tagħna wkoll.

cycle laneTwo Tier-Cycle-Rack-3

The concrete jungle at Marsascala

 

Marsascala is fast becoming a concrete jungle. Houses have been pulled down and redeveloped over the past years with blocks of flats and garages taking their place. This is the manner in which the building industry is proceeding, raping what’s left of our built environment with the assistance of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. The number of vacant dwellings in the meantime keeps increasing. It has surpassed the 54,000 mark established in the 2005 census.

The latest addition to this jungle is the massive development at Ta’ Monita. Dwarfing the Marsascala parish church it ruins the skyline.

A letter entitled Marsascala Ruined Once And For All was published on March 22, 2011 in The Times. The online comments it generated are indicative of the perceived links between politics and the building industry. The fact that the Ta’ Monita Mepa permit was issued in April 2004, two years before the present Marsascala mayor was first elected, does not in any way diminish the seriousness of the perceived contamination.

George Vella, elected as member of Parliament for many years from the electoral district of which Marsascala forms part, made a very passionate intervention on the matter in the House of Representatives on April 11, 2011. He lamented the fact that a local council that has been under the guidance of his party’s local councillors appears insensitive to the manner in which the Ta’ Monita development is engulfing the Marsascala community.

While subscribing to most of what Dr Vella stated on the matter, I noted that during his intervention he did not consider it appropriate to refer to the impacts which the financing of electoral campaigns could have on the behaviour of politicians. It is an issue the Labour Party should seriously examine in order to determine whether any of its representatives has risked being domesticated as a result of the financing of electoral campaigns.

Dr Vella used his observations on the Ta’ Monita development to launch a pre-emptive strike on what could be another potential bombshell.

St Anne public garden in Marsascala has been devolved to the local council since November 2010. Rumours have been circulating for some time as to what uses are being considered for the area. The said rumours would also have us believe as to who will be favoured by decisions yet to be taken.

On March 15, 2011 the Marsascala local council was informed by its mayor that a call for “an expression of interest” on St Anne public garden would be issued shortly. He said that, while embellishment works would be one of the objectives, these would be in addition to the construction of administrative offices, some shops, an underground car park and linkage to the Church parvis in order to develop what is, to date, a missing village square. In addition, according to the council’s published minutes, the Marsascala mayor deems it essential to carry out a traffic survey. He also considers that the opening up of Triq il-Qrempuċ could ease traffic pressures on the waterfront, thereby permitting more leisurely commercial activity.

I have had the opportunity to ask the mayor various questions about the project. He is envisaging public consultation and an involvement of the private sector. According to the published minutes, decisions are to be taken by the local council at some time in the future after considering submissions by the private sector and comments from the community.

While the minutes of the local council are in conflict with the rumours in circulation, one never knows what can crop up in the form of proposals to be submitted by the “private sector”.

The Marsascala mayor is on record as stating that “nothing will be done outside public scrutiny”. It is submitted that this is not sufficient because it makes little difference to the community if its assets are ruined openly or in an underhand manner.

An open discussion is urgently required on the very parameters of the project in order that it be ensured that the community is the real beneficiary.

Given that the Local Plan applicable to Marsascala defines the area as being a “public urban open space”, the starting point of the debate should be the compatibility of the project with the Local Plan.

This exercise, when carried out, would reveal that most of the elements of the project, which may be of interest to the private sector, are in conflict with the provisions of the Local Plan for the area (vide South Local Plan policy SMSE 04). The project is hence a non-starter.

So, for the time being, the only matter the public is sure of is that the concrete jungle in Marsascala keeps being extended. Change for the better at times seems to get more distant in time. That is until you realise that you cannot achieve change if you do not vote for it..

Published in The Times of Malta, May 21  2011