Il-ħarsien ta’ Villa Gwardamangia

Villa Guardamangia 07

Għandha raġun Astrid Vella f’isem FAA (Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar) li ffukat fuq Villa Gwardamangia fil-konferenza stampa ta’ nhar is-Sibt li għadda. Għax il-wirt storiku tagħna hemm l-obbligu li nieħdu ħsiebu dejjem, irrispettivament minn min hu s-sid tiegħu. Veru li l-istat Malti jgħin. Imma s’issa għin lil min seta jgħin ruħu. Fejn sidien ta’ propjetà ma kellhomx ir-riżorsi neċessarji s’issa ma sar xejn. Jew kważi xejn.

Kien għalhekk inkuraġġanti li fl-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħu l-Gvern qal li qed ifittex soluzzjoni għall-problema ta’ Villa Gwardamangia. Tajjeb. Issa huwa importanti li s-soluzzjoni mhux biss ifittxuha, imma li nsibuha ukoll!

X’għandu jsir?

L-ewwel nett irridu nifhmu li mhux kull sid ta’ propjetà għandu biżżejjed riżorsi biex jieħu ħsieb din it tip ta propjetà.

It-tieni, jekk il-wirt storiku tagħna m’aħniex ser nieħdu ħsiebu bħala nazzjon dan ser ikompli jitmermer u b’hekk, biċċa biċċa,  jintilef darba ghal dejjem.

It-tielet: l-istat għandu l-obbligu li ġaladarba jkun ikklassifika bini bħala protett għandu jassigura li dan il-bini jibqa’ f’kundizzjoni tajba. Ma jagħmilx sens li niċċaqalqu meta l-froġa tkun diġa saret.

Ir-raba’ huwa meta l-bini jingħata l-protezzjoni għall-ewwel darba li l-awtoritajiet għandhom jagħmlu l-verifiki jekk is-sidien tal-bini jistgħux jieħdu ħsiebu. Jekk f’dan l-istadju jistabilixxu li s-sidien ma jistgħux jieħdu ħsieb tal-bini allura l-awtoritajiet għandhom dak il-ħin jagħmlu l-arranġamenti alternattivi meħtieġa biex ikunu huma li jidħlu għal din ir-responsabbiltà. Il-Gvern għandu ħafna strumenti legali li jippermettulu jagħmel arranġamenti ta’ din ix-xorta.

Huwa biss b’dan il-mod li nistgħu nieħdu ħsieb sewwa tal-wirt storiku tagħna.

Fil-kaz ta’ Villa Gwardamangia din ġiet skedata fl-20 t’April 2001 (ara pjanta hawn taħt). L-iskedar ta’ propjeta’ fil-prattika jfisser li hemm limitazzjonijiet dwar xi żvilupp jista’ jsir fil-bini innifsu (inkluż alterazzjonijiet) u madwaru. Ikun tajjeb illi l-protezzjoni li l-MEPA tagħti lill-bini storiku jkun ifisser ukoll għarfien aħjar tal-obbligu li nżommu dan il-bini f’kundizzjoni tajba.

Il-mistoqsija loġika hi: matul dawn l-14-il sena x’sar mill-awtoritajiet biex jassiguraw ruħhom li Villa Gwardamangia tinżamm f’kundizzjoni tajba?

It-tweġiba ovvja hi : xejn. Għax li sar xi ħaga ma kienitx tkun fil-kundizzjoni li hi illum.

Ikun għaldaqstant xieraq li meta l-awtoritajiet Maltin jagħtu l-protezzjoni lill-bini storiku tagħna jieħdu ukoll passi biex jassiguraw ruħhom li dan ser jinżamm f’kundizzjoni tajba.

Villa GMangia scheduling2

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St Augustine College extension

Government’s proposal (one of three proposals) to offer the former Medical School at St Luke’s Hospital in lieu of the proposal to extend St Augustine’s College at Pieta is a sensible proposal.

When MEPA refused an application to extend St Augustine’s College through the construction of a Primary School on its grounds, in an area previously forming part of gardens in an Urban Conservation Area I had written an article entitled  Enough space exists for schools. This was published in The Times on the 11 February 2012 and is also available on this blog.

In that article I had suggested that rather than developing virgin land Govenrment should enter into an agreement with Church Schools such that where possible use of existing school buildings currently under-utilised could be made. This is a win-win situation.

In fact I had then stated that : “ ………….. rather than developing extensions incompatible with existing residential areas or, worse, developing virgin land, a possible solution to the expansion requirements of schools such as St Augustine in Pietà would be to enter into an agreement with the state to ensure better utilisation of the buildings used as state primary/secondary schools where this is possible. If we agree that more than enough land has been developed in Malta, the redevelopment of some of these sites could be an option worth considering as an alternative to the development of virgin sites and/or the overdevelopment of other sites.”

The proposal made by Government for the possible utilisation of  the former Medical school is compatible with principles of good administration and is to be applauded.  Irrespective of whether an agreement is reached or not.

This is the way forward. We cannot build more land, if we can avoid it. Using already committed land is the best way forward. The proposal to use the former Medical school is clear proof that it is possible to find solutions which do not sacrifice more virgin land. In addition such a solution will not create more problems for residents.

Enough space exists for schools

 

The refusal by the Malta Environment and Planning Auth­ority’s board last week of the proposed extension to St Augustine’s school at Pietà is a decision that makes sense.

The Mepa board was correct in refusing the application on planning grounds even though there are valid educational reasons that justify the need for more space in the school. The proposal is not compatible with the residential area in which the school and the proposed extension are located. Considering an alternative site would be appropriate.

The application considered by Mepa was to add a primary school to the secondary school already existing on site. The extension was to have six floors, four of which above road level. The proposed development was to be constructed in what is now a garden area that serves as the neighbourhood’s lungs.

As stated by the Planning Directorate, the proposal for the extension, if approved, would have been a case of overdevelopment of the site.

The Church school authorities need to delve deeper in order to plan the educational services they provide after taking into consideration all the impacts of their proposals. Ignoring the impacts on the residents is not an option.

A school, irrespective of its catchment area, should be an integral part of the community where it is located. Ideally, it should be possible for its facilities to be utilised by the community after school hours. It, hence, follows that the manner in which schools are constructed and their relation to the community should be such that a mutually beneficial relationship between the school and the other local institutions can be nurtured.

It seems that this aspect has not been given much thought at St Augustine’s. The school seems to be detached from the community where it is sited. As a consequence, the development can also be viewed as a reduction in the quality of life of the community.

The Church school authorities cannot view St Augustine’s school on its own as an isolated case.

The expansion of the Minor Seminary at Tal-Virtù, for example, was carried out in contravention of the provisions of the Local Plan as detailed by the Mepa audit officer after carrying out a thorough investigation.

The Mepa audit officer had then pointed out that no analysis of traffic impacts had been carried out. He also noted that, with a rapidly declining birth rate, the construction of new schools, except as a replacement for existing inadequate buildings, can hardly be justified anywhere.

The issues to consider are various.

The impacts on third parties need to be given their due weight. Residents close to existing schools like St Augustine’s are already impacted by excessive traffic, even if this is for a limited time in the morning and early afternoon. This impact would increase 100 per cent if the proposed extension were approved, making matters considerably worse.

In addition, the use of facilities after hours when schools are insensitively located in residential areas will impact negatively the community in the area.

Increasing the height of existing buildings or constructing buildings higher than the existing residential surroundings will lead to shadowing of the low-lying residential property. Consequently, as a result of reducing the incidence of direct sunlight on existing residential property, one would be precluded from using equipment utilising solar energy to heat water or to generate electricity. This would signify increased electricity bills for the residents.

The proposed extension for St Augustine’s school at Pietà ignored all these issues.

If the Church schools, as a result of an increased demand, desire to expand it is pretty obvious that the resulting influx of students in these schools would signify a corresponding reduction in the population of state schools. Coupled with the reduction in birth rates, this would mean that there will be substantial empty space in some of the existing state primary schools in years to come.

This could indicate that, rather than developing extensions incompatible with existing residential areas or, worse, developing virgin land, a possible solution to the expansion requirements of schools such as St Augustine in Pietà would be to enter into an agreement with the state to ensure better utilisation of the buildings used as state primary/secondary schools where this is possible. If we agree that more than enough land has been developed in Malta, the redevelopment of some of these sites could be an option worth considering as an alternative to the development of virgin sites and/or the overdevelopment of other sites.

There are valid educational reasons which justify the increase in space that schools such as St Augustine’s are requesting. However, the right of Church schools to provide an education, separate and distinct from that provided by the state, does not, in any way, mean that the rights of residents should be ignored.

Fortunately, it is possible to look elsewhere. Better utilisation of sites already committed to educational use could solve the issue reasonably for all concerned: the schools, the students and the residents.

Published in The Times, February 11,  2012

L-iskola ta’ Santu Wistin f’Tal-Pieta

 

Il-Bord tal-MEPA ma approvax applikazzjoni biex tkun imkabbra l-iskola tal-Agostinjani f’ Tal-Pieta’ nhar il-Ħamis li għadda. Jiena kont presenti minħabba applikazzjoni oħra u allura kelli ċ-ċans li nisma’ sagħtejn u nofs sħaħ ta’ argumenti. Id-deċiżjoni fl-aħħar kienet ta’ sitt voti kontra l-applikazzjoni u erba’ voti favur l-applikazzjoni.

Il-MEPA kellha quddiema żewġ argumenti.

F’naħa waħda hemm raġunijiet validi edukattivi biex l-iskola toffri servizzi aħjar. Dan qed tipprova tagħmlu billi tipprovdi skola primarja flimkien mal-iskola sekondarja. Fr Alan ir Rettur tal-Iskola spjega tajjeb ħafna r-raġunijiet edukattivi għala għandu bżonn iktar spażju. Il-Perit Mannie Galea fisser fit-tul kif jista’ jipprovdi dak meħtieġ fis-sit.

Mit-tweġiba tad-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar tal-MEPA ħareġ ċar li għalkemm jista’ jkun hemm raġunijiet validi (edukattivi) għaliex l-iskola għandha bżonn tikber, is-sit f’Tal-Pieta’ m’huwiex wieħed addattat.

L-iskola illum hi imdawwra bir-residenzi li diġa għandhom inkonvenjent kbir matul il-jum kollu bi skola ta’ 450 tifel. L-inkonvenjent hu propost illi jirdoppja jekk ma skola sekondarja tiżdied skola primarja ta’ 450 tifel.

L-inkonvenjent hu wieħed ta’ traffiku, ta’ storbju, ta’ dellijiet iġġenerati mill-bini propost …….. Noel Grima tal-Indipendnent li kien preżenti spjega dak li ġara b’mod eżawrjenti fl-artiklu tiegħu nhar il-Ġimgħa.

Naħseb li hemm soluzzjonijiet oħra. In-numru ta’ tfal qiegħed jonqos. Jekk l-iskejjel tal-Knisja ser jipprovdu spazju għal iktar tfal huwa żgur li ser ikun hemm inqas li jmorru fi skejjel tal-Gvern. Is-soluzzjoni allura tista’ tkun mhux daqstant li jitkabbru skejjel fl-abitat iżda li jinstab mod kif l-iskejjel l-oħra inklużi dawk propjeta tal-Gvern, imxerrdin ma’ Malta u Għawdex jistgħu jintużaw aħjar.