L-istupru tas-Saqqajja

Nitkellmu dwar it-Telgħa tas-Saqqajja. Imma jidher li s-Saqqajja għan-niżla!

L-applikazzjoni ta’ żvilupp biex żewġt idjar qodma fuq is-Saqqajja r-Rabat ikunu mibdula f’lukanda żgħira (boutique hotel) hu attentat ieħor biex ikun sfrakassat il-wirt storiku tal-pajjiż. Il-fillera sħiħa ta’ djar fuq is-Saqqajja flok ma jitħallew jinqerdu minn dak li wħud isejħulu żvilupp għandhom jingħataw protezzjoni fit-totalità tagħhom. Kif ippropona l-Professur Mario Buhagiar dawn id-djar fuq is- Saqqajja , tal-inqas, jistħoqilhom protezzjoni fi Grade 2, jiġifieri li l-faċċata tagħhom ma tkunx tista’ tintmiss. Possibilment jistħoqilhom iktar minn hekk ukoll: li jkunu mħarsa b’mod komplet fi Grad 1.  

 L-applikazzjoni għal żvilupp bin-numru 9516/18 tipproponi li d-djar 14 u 15 fuq Is-Saqqajja Rabat (b’faċċata ukoll fuq Vjal Santu Wistin) jinbidlu f’lukanda fi klassi 3B . Minn eżami tal-pjanti sottomessi jidher ċar li l-proposta tinkludi ż-żieda ta’ żewġ sulari fuq il-binja eżistenti kif ukoll il-mutilazzjoni tal-partijiet interni ta’ dawn iż-żewġt idjar biex ikunu jistgħu jkunu mibdula f’lukanda żgħira.

Bħal bosta oħrajn jiena ukoll ippreżentajt oġġezzjoni għal dan l-aħħar attakk fuq il-wirt tagħna lkoll. Ir-raġunijiet għal dan huma diversi.

L-ikbar raġuni hi li l-iżvilupp propost jistona fil-kuntest li hu propost li jsir.  Ser jeqred darba għal dejjem l-omoġenejità u l-armonija tal-faċċati tal-bini kemm fuq is-Saqqajja kif ukoll fuq Vjal Santu Wistin. Fuq Vjal Santu Wistin  l-iżviluppatur irid iħarbat parti kbira mill-ġnien li jagħti karattru uniku u hu parti integrali mill-binja. Hi l-binja kollha, kif inhi, bil-ġnien kollu  li teħtieġ li tkun protetta.

Il-Pjan Lokali, li jqis liż-żona bħala waħda ta’ konservazzjoni urbana jillimita l-iżvilupp fiż-żona għal żewġ sulari. Il-proposta ta’ żvilupp tinjora din il-limitazzjoni kompletament. Huwa għaldaqstant ovvju li jekk din l-applikazzjoni tibqa’ għaddejja u tkun approvata ser twassal għall-qerda tal-filliera sħiħa tad-djar  fuq is-Saqqajja għax li jgħodd għal wieħed jgħodd għal kulħadd. Imbagħad  tkun ġiet stuprata ż-żona kollha.

Iżjed ‘l-isfel, fit-Telgħa tas-Saqqajja, fejn sa ftit ilu kien hemm it-Tattingers Club u xi propjetajiet oħra, il-ħerba tkompli.  Dan is-sit ukoll għandu mdendla miegħu proposta ta’ żvilupp: lukanda massiċċa ta’ 110 kmamar mifruxa fuq 5600 metru kwadru. Mhumiex l-uniċi applikazzjonijiet fl-inħawi għax hemm oħrajn. Iżda huma l-iktar li jagħtu fil-għajn. 

Jidher li waslet id-daqqa tar-Rabat li jrid jiffaċċja l-forza tal-qerda li tpoġġi l-flus qabel il-wirt komuni tagħna lkoll.

Il-mod kif ġiebet ruħha l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar fil-passat ma tantx hu ta’ awgurju tajjeb li din b’xi mod kapaċi tieqaf lill-forzi tal-qerda. Permezz tad-deċiżjonijiet tagħha sal-lum, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar bagħatet messaġġ ċar li, fil-fehma tagħha, l-impatt ekonomiku tal-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni jixirqilha ferm iktar attenzjoni minn kwlaunkwe ħaġa oħra.  B’ġustizzja ngħid li hemm xi żewġ membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li jispikkaw minħabba li b’differenza minn sħabhom jiddefendu regolarment kemm il-wirt storiku kif ukoll dak naturali. Imma dawn qegħdin f’minoranza assoluta, avolja xi kultant ġieli jappoġġawhom uħud mill-bqija.

Imma x’tistenna minn Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li l-membri tiegħu ma jħossuhomx skomdi madwar l-istess mejda ma’ agent tal-propjetà biex jgħaddu ġudizzju dwar liema applikazzjonijiet ta’ żvilupp jixirqilhom ikunu approvati u liema le?  

M’għandi l-ebda idea dwar x’deċiżjoni ser ikollna, imma fid-dawl ta’ kif ġiebet ruħha sal-lum l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar xejn ma niskanta jekk tagħti l-approvazzjoni tagħha biex il-qerda tibda tiela’ t-Telgħa tas-Saqqajja. 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : 9 ta’ Diċembru 2018

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The mutilation of Saqqajja

The planning application to convert two old town-houses at Saqqajja, Rabat into a boutique hotel is another attempt to mutilate our historical heritage. The whole row of town houses at Saqqajja, rather than being placed on the chopping board of so-called development should be protected in their totality. As proposed by Professor Mario Buhagiar, these Saqqajja town houses, as a minimum, deserve a Grade 2 protection, that is to say their elevation must be preserved in its entirety. Their protection should possibly be even more extensive: total protection at Grade 1.

Planning application 9516/18 proposes to change the use of residences at 14 and 15 Is-Saqqajja Rabat (with back elevations onto Vjal Santu Wistin) into a Class 3B hotel. Through an examination of the proposed drawings, it is clear that the proposal includes the addition of two new floors as well as an internal mutilation of the properties to render them usable as a boutique hotel.

I have joined countless others in submitting an objection to this latest assault on our historical heritage. The reasons for objecting are numerous.

The most obvious reason for objecting is that the proposed development is out of tune with its surroundings. It will ruin the homogenous eloquence of both the Saqqajja elevation as well as that of Vjal Santu Wistin on which elevation the developer is proposing to gobble up an extensive part of the existing garden that contributes to a unique setting which needs the maximum protection possible.

The Local Plan, defining the area as an Urban Conservation Area, limits any proposed development in the area to two floors. This limitation is blatantly disregarded by the proposal for this boutique hotel. If this application is not stopped in its tracks, it is inevitable that it will eventually lead to the complete mutilation of the whole row of Saqqajja town-houses, because what’s good for the goose is naturally good for the gander.

Further down the hill, on the site currently occupied by Tattingers Club and a number of adjoining properties, the mutilation exercise continues. This site has another development proposal for a massive 110-room hotel spread over an area of around 5600 square metres. There are other planning applications in the vicinity but the above two are the most conspicuous. It seems that the mutilation brigade has shifted their attention towards Rabat and its surroundings.

The past performance of the Planning Authority is not very reassuring as it does not seem capable of withstanding the pressures of the development lobby. The Planning Authority has, as a result of its past decisions, sent a clear message that it considers the economic activity of the building industry more worthy of its attention and protection than anything else. In all fairness, there are a couple of members on the Planning Authority Board who stand out because they continuously defend the national heritage and the natural environment. But they are unfortunately a very small minority even when, occasionally, they are supported by others.

What else do you expect from a Planning Authority Board whose members are not uncomfortable when they sit with an estate agent in judgement as to which applications for a development permit are approved or refused?

I have no idea what the decision will be, but, based on past performance it is not beyond the Planning Authority Board to give its approval to the massacre brigade marching up Saqqajja Hill.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 9 December 2018

Il-kunvent li ser isir lukanda żgħira

Hisilicon K3

F’San Ġiljan, fit-Telgħa li mill-Balluta twassal sa Triq il-Kulleġġ l-Antik hemm kunvent żgħir tas-sorijiet flimkien ma skola żgħira (St Vincent School). M’għadux jintuża la bħala kunvent u l-anqas bħala skola, għax hemm applikazzjoni biex ikun hemm lukanda żgħira. Interessanti jekk il-Knisja innegozjatx l-art, inkella jekk ġietx f’idejn l-iżviluppatur mingħand terzi.

Din il-lukanda ser ikollha l-faċċata tagħha li tagħti għal fuq il-wied tal-Balluta u ser ikollha veduta mill-isbaħ tal-Bajja ta’ San Ġiljan.

Biex titwettaq din il-proposta li preżentment qegħda quddiem il-MEPA (PA 2937/15) hu propost li jsiru tibdiliet u żidiet mal-binja tal-kunvent eżistenti. Il-proposta tal-binja finali, dejjem skond il-pjanti li hemm bħalissa quddiem il-MEPA, mhux ser taqbeż l-għoli tal-kunvent eżistenti b’mod li tibqa’ taħt il-livell tal-bini eżistenti li jmiss mal-kunvent.

F’ċirkustanzi normali dan hu t-tip ta’ żvilupp li għandu jkun inkoraġġit. Li nagħmlu użu aħjar ta’ art li diġa hi disturbata. Hu bil-bosta aħjar milli tinbena art barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp.

It-Times tal-lum tirrapporta li r-residenti, iżda, huma mħassba dwar dak li hu propost. Ma nagħtihomx tort, prinċipalment għax nifhem li din il-preokkupazzjoni hi riżultat ta’ nuqqas ta’ fiduċja fl-istituzzjonijiet b’mod li anke fejn proposta ta’ żvilupp hi waħda valida diffiċli toqgħod fuq dak li tkun qed tara b’għajnejk, għax bla ma trid tissuspetta li hemm xi ħaga oħra, moħbija, inkella li ma tkunx qed tinduna biha. Min jaf, qed jaħsbu uħud, jekk din il-proposta hiex waħda miftehma sakemm joħroġ il-permess għall-iżvilupp, imbagħad, wara li l-affarijiet ikun ikkwietaw tibda fażi oħra li twassal għal żieda fil-għoli!

Imbagħad ikun tard wisq.

Jiena naħseb li dawn huma affarijiet li jeħtieġ li jkunu ċari ħafna, għax s’issa m’humiex.

Għalhekk inkwetati ir-residenti.

 

In Tourism – small is beautiful too

Villa del Porto Kalkara

First published in 1973, Ernst Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful – economics as if people mattered has always presented a challenge to politicians and economic planners. It contrasts to, and in many instances it actually is, the direct antithesis of the “economies of scale” and as such it is often discarded by those who dream of quick results.

Schumacher, an economist by training, had one specific message: the promotion of people-centred economics. Our economics are profit-focused, with decisions being constantly made on profitability criteria, rather than on human needs. People should come before profits.

Human needs as well as environmental impact should be factored in at the drawing-board stage of all economic decisions. Reading through plans and strategies on the development of tourism in Malta over the years, one inevitably reaches the conclusion that these plans and strategies are focused on hotels, as if nothing else mattered. Tourism is, however, much more than hotels and the hotel industry.

It is only fairly recently that some thought is being given to boutique hotels and agri-tourism: alternative, small-scale tourism opportunities.  Yet much more needs to be done if we are to move along the path of sustainable tourism which, whilst being practically harmless environmentally, can be of considerable benefit not just to our economy but also to our families, in particular those in small communities.

Earlier this week, I was alerted by residents in Lija to an application submitted to MEPA [PA2822/15] to convert a large townhouse in a residential area into a boutique hotel. This proposed hotel would have nine bedrooms with ancillary facilities and it covers a total area of 1,110 square metres, including a garden. When finished, it could cater for a maximum of twenty guests.

Being small, such a boutique hotel would  fit in easily in any of our towns or villages. Its impact would be compatible with that generated by three or four families in the community. Being generally family-run helps considerably to give a human face to this tourism outlet as well as offering excellent service.

However the local residents are  worried about the compatibility of this development with the residential nature of the area. Their worries are not just about the impact of the hotel’s services but more on the possible spinoffs such as whether the bar and restaurant, as well as the swimming pool  – to be constructed in what is currently the garden – would be open to people who are  not actually staying in the hotel. The residents are worried about noise pollution well into the silent hours, the generation of increased traffic and subsequent parking problems – problems they associate with such spin-off activities.

The residents cannot be blamed for their concerns because no one has explained what the practical operational limits of boutique hotels will be – and this is because there are no MEPA guidelines on the subject. The various applications for the provision of boutique hotels that MEPA has processed in the recent past are considered within existing general policies. Likewise, perusal of the Malta Tourism Authority’s website does not reveal any guidelines to help prospective developers of boutique hotels navigate the relatively unchartered waters of such an activity in a residential area.

A number of local councils are similarly concerned because, although they understand and appreciate the benefits to the local economy of encouraging the use of large properties as boutique hotels they are apprehensive about the collateral damage to community life. Large townhouses as well as historical buildings in our towns and villages can be given a new life by being converted to boutique hotels but great care must be taken to ensure that this development is not driven by economics alone. It needs to be community driven and local councils in particular need to be partners in this drive to develop an untapped area of sustainable tourism.

If handled properly, it is potentially a win-win situation but the concerns of the residential communities must be addressed immediately. If this is done, tourism will take a gigantic step forward as it will develop a human face.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 23 August 2015

Boutique Hotels f’Malta u l-impatt fuq ir-residenti

Malta Tourism Authority

 

Qed ikellmuni residenti minn lokalitajiet diversi. Uħud minnhom huma inkwetati li ħdejhom ser tfaqqas boutique hotel.

Il-biża’ ta’ dawn ir-residenti hi li ser ikollhom invażjoni tal-ħajja kwieta tagħhom fl-irħula żgħar tagħna.

Qaluli li jibżgħu li dawn il-lukandi żgħar ser jiftħu l-faċilitajiet tagħhom bħal swimming pool, bar u restaurant għal persuni li ma jkunux residenti fil-boutique hotel.

Jiena naħseb li dan hu improbabbli li jsir għax kieku kellu jsir hekk dawn il-boutique hotels fl-irħula jitilfu l-karatteristika prinċipali tagħhom: post fil-kwiet. Post il-bogħod mill-istorbju. Post ta’ mistrieħ fejn l-atmosfera hi waħda ta’ familja u mhux waħda kummerċjali.

Anke l-movimenti dwar xiri tal-ikel, inkella ta’ skart fil-boutique hotels m’għandux ikun wieħed straordinarju. Għandu jkun daqs, jew ftit iktar minn dak ta’ familja medja f’Malta.

Qed ngħid dan għax id-daqs indikat lili tal-boutique hotels ippjanati f’Malta mhux wieħed kbir. Hu fil-fatt kompatibbli mal-binjiet ħdejhom fl-irħula tagħna. Ta’ l-inqas il-parti l-kbira minnhom.

Il-boutique hotels għandna bżonnhom f’Malta għax dawn jistgħu jifirxu x-xogħol konness mat-turiżmu fl-irħula tagħna u għandhom jinkoraġixxu tip differenti ta’ turiżmu. Mhux biss. Jistgħu jkunu ta’ għajnuna kbira biex ikun riabilitat bini qadim mitluq kif ukoll jistgħu jservu ta’ spinta biex nieħdu ħsieb aħjar bini storiku fl-irħula tagħna li spiċċa bla użu.

Peró jkun tajjeb li l-Kunsilli Lokali jiċċaqalqu u flimkien mal-MEPA u l-Awtorità tat-Turiżmu jfasslu linji gwida flessibli dwar il-boutique hotels li tista’ isserraħ ras kulħadd. Għax sfortunatament, jekk tfittex fuq il-website tal-Awtorità tat-Turiżmu, inkella fuq il-website tal-MEPA ma issib xejn.

Biex inkun ċar, ma nistax ngħid li kull proposta ta’ boutique hotel f’Malta ser tkun bla impatti fuq ir-residenti. Imma jekk noqgħodu attenti nistgħu nassiguraw li dan ikun hekk. Forsi ma tafx kif għal darba l-MEPA ixxaqleb lejn ir-residenti!

Mill-bqija kull min jixtieq għajnuna dwar xi applikazzjoni pendenti fil-lokalità tiegħu dwar boutique hotels u l-impatti fuq ir-residenti jista’ jikkuntattjani u safejn hu possibli nagħti l-għajuna tiegħi biex ikunu iċċarati l-affarijiet.

L-email tiegħi hu cacopardocarm@gmail.com