Estremist jew …………….. imdawwar bil-poodles

poodles 2

 

Ġieli qalulna ukoll fundamentalisti. L-aħħar titlu hu estremisti. Hekk irrappurtat it-Times online illum diskors dal-għodu ta’ Joseph Muscat. L-Independent min-naħa l-oħra  uża l-kelma “absolutism”.  Il-Malta Today irrappurtat dak li ntqal b’video li jaqbel ma dak li qalet l-Independent.

Ir-realtà hi li l-valur tal-ekoloġija hu wieħed assolut. Għalhekk din l-opposizzjoni li bdiet u nittama li ma tieqafx.  Il-ħerba ekoloġika madwarna qed tikber kontinwament, għax hawn wisq politiċi irresponsabbli bħal Joseph Muscat jiġru mas-saqajn. Tkun irresponsabbli jekk tħares sal-ponta ta’ mnieħrek. Jekk tħares lejn il-gwadann immedjat u tinjora, jew aħjar tagħlaq għajnejk għall-ħsara irreparabbli li qed tiżviluppa bil-mod u fit-tul.

Il-proposta tal-hekk imsejjaħ kompromess li qed jimbotta ftit ftit Joseph Muscat, fis-sens li jibni biss parti mill-campus tal-“Università” fiz-Zonqor u l-kumplament x’imkien ieħor hi proposta irresponsabbli. Għax jekk Muscat qed jagħraf li hemm validità fl-argument li l-Università għandha titbiegħed miż-Żonqor, din għandha titbiegħed kompletament. Mhux biċċa biss biex taparsi kien qed jisma’.

Tajjeb li l-Gvern jisma’. Imma hu iktar importanti li jagħti każ. Li ma tkunx trid  tisma’ hu ħażin. Imma li tisma’ u ma tagħtix każ hu agħar għax turi li taparsi qed tisma’.

Pajjiżna ma jistax jitlef iktar raba’. Tilef iktar minn biżżejjed tul is-snin. Dak li ntilef ma jistax jinġieb lura.

Ir-raba’ taż-Żonqor m’huwiex biss sors ta’ għajxien għall-bdiewa. Huwa ukoll bejta tal-bijodiversità li qed tinqered ftit ftit.

Li topponi li l-ġungla tal-konkos jibla iktar raba’ m’huwiex estremiżmu. Huwa sens ta’ responsabbiltà kbira favur żvilupp sostenibbli. Għax l-iżvilupp għaqli m’huwiex li tibni iktar imma li tkun kapaċi tutilizza dak li hu diġa mibni biex taqdi l-ħtiġijiet tal-lum.

Dan ma jgħoddx biss għaż-Żonqor imma jgħodd ukoll għall-iskejjel li trid tibni l-Knisja f’Ħal-Ghaxaq. Ankè dawk, m’għandhomx jinbnew. Għandhom jinstabu soluzzjonijiet oħra, avolja diffiċli.

It-titlu ta’ estrimist fejn jidħol l-ambjent xejn ma jdejjaqni. L-importanti l-konsistenza li min huwa mdawwar bil-poodles m’għandux idea xi tkun.

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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