Bezzina’s almond grove

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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

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Simon iwiegħed kollox lil kulħadd?

 busuttil-darmanin-demajo

Fdawn il-ġranet, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni qal li  jaqbel li l-għaqdiet sportivi għandhom ikunu mgħejjuna biex jimmassimizzaw il-potenzjal kummerċjali tal-faċilitajiet sportivi li jmexxu.

Proposta li tinstema tajba sakemm tiftakar li dan jista jkun il-kawża ta ħafna problemi.

Madwar sena ilu l-Gvern kien ħareg dokument intitolat The Commercialisation of Sports Facilities għal konsultazzjoni pubblika propju dwar dan is-suġġett.

Alternattiva Demokratika tirrikonoxxi l-intenzjonijiet tajba wara dawn il-proposti.

Imma biex jintlaħaq dan l-iskop, hemm iċċans, mhux żgħir, li nispiċċaw bxi grounds tal-futbol barra mill-irħula tagħna mibnijin bi ħwienet u uffiċini u bil-ground tal-futbol fuq il-bejt, bħalma diġa hemm fTignè! U jekk inti toqgħod fit-tarf tar-raħal hemm ċans tajjeb li tkun tista issegwi partita futbol minn fuq il-bejt. Jekk tkun iffurtunat tkun tista issegwiha ukoll mill-kamra tas-sodda! Anke l-floodlights jispiċċaw idawlulek il-kmamar tad-dar. Tispiċċa tiffranka l-konsum tal-elettriku! Dan apparti l-problemi ta parking u l-istorbju, sajf u xitwa. Dan eżempju wieħed. Hemm bosta oħra.

Fi stqarrija li ħriġna Alternattiva Demokratika sena ilu għidna li dak propost, jekk implimentat, jista jkun il-kawża ta ħafna ħsara ambjentali kif ukoll ikollu effett neġattiv fuq iżżoni residenzjali tagħna.

Daqqa ta ħarta oħra għall-ambjent.

Ovvjament Simon Busuttil donnu nesa li l-ħarsien tal-ambjent mgħandux ikun ristrett għad-dokumenti imma għandu jkun rifless ukoll fkull inizjattiva li nieħdu. Tajjeb li Simon Busuttil jiftakar sewwa kull hin li dak li wiegħed fid-dokument ambjentali A Better Quality of Life for You. Għax bih rabat idejh u bħala riżultat kellu jaħseb ftit iktar dwar il-konsegwenzi tal-proposti tiegħu għall-kummercjalizzazzjoni tal-facilitajiet sportivi. Alternattiva Demokratika ser tibqa’ tfakkru.

Lil Simon, tista’ tieħdu bis-serjetá?

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Il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil ipprova jiddefendi ftit lill-Onorevoli Toni Bezzina.

Simon qalilna li l-Onorevoli Toni Bezzina ma għamel xejn ħażin meta ippreżenta l-applikazzjoni ta żvilupp biex anke hu jkollu villa ODZ. Applikazzjoni perfettament legali, skond il-policies tal-ippjanar, qalilna l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni.

Li ma qalx Simon Busuttil hu li Toni Bezzina kien wieħed mill-awturi tad-dokument dwar il-politika ambjentali li l-Partit Nazzjonalista ippubblika ftit ilu intitolat A Better Quality of Life for You. Fdan id-dokument jgħidulna li fl-ODZ il-PN hu tal-fehma li ma jista jinbena xejn ħlief bdeċiżjoni tal-Parlament u dan biss jekk dan ikun fl-interess nazzjonali!

Meta tikteb dawn l-affarijiet (u iktar) li hemm fid-dokument ambjentali tal-PN u imbagħad tinjorhom mill-ewwel, ifisser li inti stess ma tkunx temmen fihom.

Il-mistoqsija li teħtieġ tweġiba hi dwar kemm nistgħu nemmnu dak li jgħid il-Partit Nazzjonalista meta huwa jaġixxi bdan il-mod? Nistgħu nieħduh bis-serjetá?

Sfortunatament,  dan ma jgħoddx biss għall-ambjent.

Toni Bezzina : il-pjanti tal-Villa ODZ

 

Hawn fuq qed taraw waħda mill-pjanti tal-Villa li Toni Bezzina ippropona li jibni ODZ. Kif qed taraw, hemm propost garage fil-basement u fuqu villa ta’ sular wieħed, bi tlett ikmamar tas-sodda. Isfel tidher pjanta tal-art kollha, kemm kif inhi issa kif ukoll kif giet proposta li tinbena.

Fl-istess ħin, Toni Bezzina, flimkien ma oħrajn kellu sehem fit-tfassil tar-rapport tal-PN dwar l-ambjent, rapport intitolat A Better Quality of Life for You. fejn jgħidulna li l-Parlament biss, u f’kas rari ta’ interess nazzjonali, jista’ japprova permess għal bini f’ODZ.

Kemm taħarqu qalbu għall-ODZ il-PN! Jgħidu ħaġa u jagħmlu oħra! Imbagħad jieħdu għalihom meta ngħidulhom li : Il-PN jipprova jgħatti x-xemx bl-għarbiel meta jitkellem dwar l-ambjent!  Tgħid dwar l-ambjent biss il-PN qed jipprova jgħatti x-xemx bl-għarbiel? 

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Environmental policy is about political decisions

The Nationalist Party has recently published its proposals for the environment in a document entitled A Better Quality of Life for You. This is a step forward, irrespective of the reasons motivating it.

In the foreword to the published document, the Leader of the Opposition makes a very important declaration. He states: “We built the necessary institutions, and generally put in the right policies – but all too often we did not ensure they were fully implemented, or we circumvented them, and made too many exceptions.”

This signifies a recognition of the fact that, at the end of the day, the real issue is not just the identification of the “right policies”,  but of ensuring that the institutions entrusted to implement them are in a position to carry out their responsibilities. How can these institutions function when key posts are filled with partisan cronies, or so-called “persons of trust” instead of competent technical people?

At the end of the day, the successful implementation of environmental policy is dependent upon a favourable climate of good governance which has been conspicuous by its absence for quite a long time.

What purpose does it serve to have the “right policies” on land use planning when, as a result of pressures from the land speculation lobby, the PN in Government adopted a rationalisation scheme extending the limits of development in a horizontal direction? To make matters worse, simultaneously the PN in government also extended the limits of development in a vertical direction. As a result it ignored both its own sanctimonious declarations as well as the clear indications from data collected and analysed by official bodies that the net result of its actions was a continuous increase in the number of vacant properties.

Environmental policy is intrinsically linked to various other policy areas. The haphazard extensions of the limits to development – the horizontal ones as well as the vertical ones – have, and still are, wreaking havoc on the capacity of Maltese households to generate alternative energy through the placing of photo-voltaic panels on the rooftops of their homes. While the Energy Minister advocates the need to generate alternative energy through the installation of photo-voltaic panels, the Minister responsible for land-use planning has been playing around with flexible permissible building heights in various localities. How can we adequately plan the generation of alternative energy if solar rights are not guaranteed through rigid height limitation regulations?

Similarly, we speak of the need to ensure an improvement in air quality but simultaneously there is a reluctance to address the spiralling number of cars on our roads – the major contributor to poor air quality in a number of areas. Instead of addressing the matter head-on, successive governments have sought to make it easier for car owners to dominate our roads by sprinkling millions of euros on the unnecessary development of the road infrastructure. In my view, such developments are unnecessary, as the end result will be a further increase in the number of cars when the real and only solution is an immediate reduction.

Linked to all this is the lack of importance given to public transport. While acknowledging that there has been an improvement in the use of public transport during the past 36 months, this is still considerably way off what it should be in a small country where distances between localities are minimal. This, too, is a failure to implement the “right policies”.

Environment policy is about making choices and taking decisions – some of which may be difficult and contentious. Over the years, it has been the objective of Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party in Malta, to place these choices on the national agenda so that our citizens are in a position to consider them and decide.

After many years, the Nationalist Party has woken up to the environmental realities around us. While this is positive, I await the revision of the PN’s other policies, which are inconsistent with their environmental proposals. When that happens, we may be able to form a definite opinion as to whether the publication by the Nationalist Party of its environment proposals is for real, or else another green-washing exercise in which matter the Nationalist Party has accumulated considerable experience.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 February 2017