Marsa: a planning mess


The Chamber of Architects has taken the Planning Authority to task on the piecemeal local plan reviews that it has been churning out, one at a time. The latest tirade was with reference to a partial review of The Grand Harbour Local Plan (originally published in 2002) specifically with respect to a Marsa Park Site.

We have just concluded a public discussion on a Masterplan for Paceville, which was shredded by public opinion and sent back to the drawing board.

Earlier, we had the Planning Authority itself contesting whether Local Councils, NGOs and the Environment and Resources Authority  had a right to contest the decision to permit high-rises in Townsquare Sliema and in Imrieħel.

To make matters worse, instead of consolidating the environmental regulatory functions of the state, this government has opted to deliberately fragment them, thereby ensuring their reduced effectiveness by design.  In a small country such as Malta, it pays to have one consolidated authority  directed by environment professionals through whom land use planning responsibilities should be accountable.

Land use planning needs to be more focused but holistic in nature. The Chamber of Architects aptly makes the point that focusing the efforts of the partial review of the Grand Harbour Local Plan specifically on “a Marsa Business Park” without considering this within the context  of a much needed regeneration of Marsa would be a futile exercise. The decay of Marsa as an urban centre needs to be addressed at the earliest opportunity and this will not be done through piecemeal local plan reviews but through comprehensive planning “which ought to include community needs, road transport re-alignment, environment improvement and flooding mitigation measures”.

These are the basic issues which should be addressed by a local plan review concerning Marsa. Tackling major infrastructural and social problems facing the Marsa community should take precedence over any proposal for the redevelopment of the Marsa Park site. It is the whole of Marsa that should be addressed and not just one tiny corner.

The partial local plan review is ignoring the local community, just like its cousin the Paceville Masterplan did some months ago. Many years ago we learned that “planning is for people”. This seems to be no longer the case as, according to the Planning Authority, planning is apparently for business hubs, high-rises and, obviously, for developers. They seem to be very well connected, thereby ensuring that they occupy the first items of this government’s land use planning agenda.

Marsa has been forgotten over the years. With the closure of the Marsa power station now is the appropriate time to consider the various accumulated impacts on the Marsa community in order that an integrated approach to addressing them is identified. Planning is for people. That means that the Marsa community should be actively involved when these plans are being formulated, including at the drawing board stage. Land use planners should stimulate the Marsa community to speak up and involve itself in drawing up a blue print for its future.

The regeneration of Marsa is an urgent matter which should not be left unattended.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 15 January 2017


Political calculation or environmental principle?



Joseph Muscat’s declaration that the Freeport Terminal will not be permitted to expand in Birżebbuġa’s direction due to its impacts on the residential community will inevitably have an effect on the Planning Authority. Viewed in the context of the recent Planning Authority decision not to approve the proposed Ħondoq ir-Rummien development, a pattern seems to be developing.

Given the fact that these two decisions are closely associated with localities that politically support the Labour Party it is still not clear whether this newly discovered sensitivity to restrict development which negatively impacts residential communities is based on political calculation or on environmental principle. This consideration is inevitable, in particular due to the report in this newspaper on 22 June that the Prime Minister had stated, in a discussion with environmental NGO Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, that he does not care about impact assessments, as residents get used to everything. As far as I am aware, the Office of the Prime Minister never corrected this report.

The Freeport Terminal debate clearly indicates that Birżebbuġa residents are determined to deliver a different message: they have had enough. During the last seven years there has been an ongoing tug-of-war between Birżebbuġa Local Council, MEPA and the Freeport Terminal Management. This has led to a number of improvements, the most important of which was the setting up of a tripartite Environmental Monitoring Committee that has served to build some bridges and to explore solutions to existing problems caused by the operation of the Freeport Terminal.

There was a time, around two years ago, when pressure was put on Birżebbuġa Local Council to drop its objections to specific operations. I distinctly remember representatives from the oil-rig repair industry  trying to convince the Council of the “benefits” that an oil-rig industry based at the Freeport Terminal could generate.

When these representatives realised that no one was convinced, an amendment to the environmental permit was forced through the then MEPA Board. To their credit, only three of the then board members understood the real issues and voted against the proposal: the two MPs (Joe Sammut and Ryan Callus) and the environmental NGO representative Alex Vella of the Ramblers Association.

The amended environmental permit would have permitted minor repairs to ships and oil-rigs berthed at the Freeport Terminal. However, after the MEPA Board meeting all hell broke loose, leading Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to disassociate himself from its decision and publicly align himself with the minority on the board opposing the changes. He then stated that he was in agreement with “his representative”, Labour MP Joe Sammut.

While the Freeport Terminal, faced with the reaction of residents, eventually relinquished the newly-acquired permit, the internal debate within the Labour Party continued, leading to the recent statement by Joseph Muscat that he is not in agreement with an expansion of the Freeport Terminal operations that would have a negative impact on the Birżebbuġa community.

Irrespective of whether it is a matter of principle or a political calculation which has led the Prime Minister to make such a statement, I submit that this is still a significant turning point that has been achieved as a direct result of Birżebbuġa Local Council’s persistent lobbying. It contrasts with the position taken by the Leader of the Opposition, who looks forward to an increase in the operations of the Freeport Terminal, without batting an eyelid over the resulting, continuously increasing, impact on the residential community.

The Prime Minister’s statement, while being a positive first step, is certainly not enough. It needs to be translated into policy as an integral part of the revised Local Plans currently under consideration. It is also important that the Prime Minister’s newly identified sensitivities are exported to other areas in Malta and Gozo. It is essential that, in a small country such as ours, third party rights opposing “development” are reinforced.

The issue at stake is far larger than Birżebbbuġa or the Freeport Terminal. It is a tug-of-war between those supporting “development” at all costs and our residential communities. The government must, through planning policy, be supportive of all our residential communities without exception.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 31st July 2016

Moratorium : fl-interess tagħna lkoll


Huwa meħtieġ li jkun hawn moratorium fuq l-iżvilupp ta’ proġetti kbar. Li dan isir, illum qabel għada, hu fl-interess tagħna lkoll.

Meta fl-2006 ġew approvati bl-għaġġla l-pjani lokali ittieħdet deċiżjoni ħażina li għadna nbatu l-konsegwenzi tagħha sal-lum.

Sa nofs l-2006 il-proċess tal-konsiderazzjoni tal-pjani lokali kien miexi bil-mod tant li tnejn biss (minn 7) kienu għadhom ġew approvati. Imma indunaw li kienet ser tidħol fis-seħħ direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropea imsejħa Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. Din id-direttiva tesiġi li qabel ma jkun approvat pjan jew programm li jħejji l-qafas ta’ żvilupp għall-futur għandu jkun studjat l-impatt kumulattiv ta’ dak propost.

Studju tal-impatt kumulattiv tal-pjani lokali ma sarx. Li kieku dan l-istudju sar il-pjani lokali kienu jkunu ezaminati dettaljatment. Ir-regolamenti dwar is-suġġett fil-fatt jgħidu li l-iskop hu  li “jipprovdi għal livell għoli ta’ ħarsien tal-ambjent, u li jikkontribwixxi għall-integrazzjoni ta’ konsiderazzjonijiet ambjentali fil-preparazzjoni u l-adozzjoni ta’ pjanijiet u programmi bil-għan li jiġi promoss l-iżvilupp sostenibbli, billi jiġi żgurat li, skont dawn ir-regolamenti, titwettaq stima ambjentali strateġika dwar ċertu pjanijiet u programmi li x’aktarx ikollhom effetti sinifikanti fuq l-ambjent.” [ara Regolamenti dwar Stima Ambjentali Strateġika. 549.61] L-iskedi ta’ dawn ir-regolamenti jispjegaw dettaljatament dwar il-kriterji u l-impatti li għandhom ikunu ikkunsidrati.

Biex dan l-istudju ma jsirx il-Gvern u l-MEPA għaġġlu biex fis-sajf tal-2006 jkunu approvati l-pjani lokali li kien baqa’ flimkien mal-eserċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni li żied maż-żewġ miljun metru kwadru fiż-żona tal-iżvilupp. B’din l-approvazzjoni ta’ malajr il-Gvern u l-MEPA fl-2006 għamlu għażla ċara li għalihom l-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni tiġi qabel il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll.

Għalhekk hemm bżonn il-moratorium, il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll tkun tista’ terġa’ tingħata prijorità.

Il-Gvern iċċaqlaq ……….. għax sab l-iebes

Zonqor protest.200615.05jpg


Il-mod kif il-Gvern ħa id-deċiżjoni dwar l-Università Amerikana juri biċ-ċar li m’għandux idea tal-obbligi ambjentali tiegħu. Għax kieku kellu l-iċken idea kien jimxi b’mod differenti. Il-konsultazzjoni neċessarja kien jagħmilha qabel ma jiddeċiedi u mhux wara li għaffiġha.

Id-deċiżjoni oriġinali kienet ħażina. Bid-deċiżjoni reveduta li tħabbret il-bieraħ l-Gvern ġabar ftit ġieħu.

Ir-reviżjoni saret biss u esklussivament minħabba li s-soċjetà ċivili fetħet ħalqha.

M’huwiex possibli li tikkonkludi minn każ wieħed jekk dan ifissirx li l-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat huwiex ser jibda jagħti każ ta’ x’jaħseb il-lobby ambjentali. Dan inkunu nistgħu nikkonkluduh wara li jkollna xi żewġ każijiet oħra.

Irridu naraw per eżempju dwar kemm il-Gvern ser jagħti każ tal-proposti tal-lobby ambjentali dwar il-liġijiet preżentement pendenti quddiem il-Parlament. Irridu ukoll naraw xi proposti ser isiru meta fix-xhur li ġejjin ikunu ippubblikati l-abbozzi ta’ pjani lokali.

Jiena naħseb li l-Gvern kontinwament ser jipprova jevita l-obbligi ambjentali tiegħu. Jekk isib resistenza jaġġusta l-posizzjoni tiegħu skond ir-resistenza li jsib.

Għalhekk hu importanti li s-soċjetà ċivili tibqa’ viġilanti għax ser niffaċċjaw battalja wara l-oħra. Min jaqta’ nifsu l-ewwel jitlef.

Ippubblikat fuq l-Illum il-Ħadd 23 t’Awwissu 2015


F’Tal-Mirakli : theddid u twissija


(ritratt ta’


Dalgħodu Alternattiva Demokratika indirizzat konferenza stampa dwar il-bini li beda fl-area tal-Mirakli ġewwa Ħ’Attard fuq art li sal-2006 kienet barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp.

Il-krew tal-PBS x’ħin kienu fi triqithom għal din il-konferenza kienu mhedda minn persuni li kienu qed jaħdmu fuq is-sit ta’ kostruzzjoni li dwaru saret il-konferenza stampa. Ara r-rapport tal-PBS hawn.

L-istqarrija maħruġa minn Alternattiva Demokratika wara l-konferenza stampa intqal kif ġej :

Il-proprjeta’ vojta: sinjal ta’ twissija

L-ammont ta’ proprjetajiet residenzjali vojta hu sinjal ta’ twissija. Bi 72,150 unit residenzjali vojt ma nistgħux nibqgħu nibnu iżjed art li sa ftit ilu kienet barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp. Hekk qal Carmel Cacopardo, Deputat Chairperson u kelliemi ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli u l-Intern, fl-inħawi Tal-Mirakli f’Ħ’Attard huwa u jindirizza konferenza stampa dwar il-pjani lokali u r-razzjonalizzazzjoni tal-iskemi ta’ żvilupp.

Il-konferenza stampa saret quddiem medda art li saret skedata għall-bini bħala riżultat tal-proċess ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni li l-Gvern immexxi mill-PN wettaq fl-2006. Din l-art sa dakinnhar kienet parti minn “green belt” . Fuq din l-art fit-18 ta’ Lulju 2013 il-MEPA ħarġet permess biex jinbnew 24 garage u store fil-basement u 19 il-unit residenzjali fil-ħames sulari l-oħra (6 maisonettes, 9 flats u 4 penthouses).

Cacopardo żied jgħid li “dan kollu qed isir minkejja li preżentement f’Malta hawn 72,150 unit residenzjali vojt. Żieda sostanzjali fuq it-53,136 proprjeta’ vojta fl-2005 u l-35,723 fl-1995.”

“Alternattiva Demokratika,” kompla jgħid Cacopardo “ma taqbilx li dawn l-artijiet jinbnew. Pajjiżna ma jistax jibqa’ jissagrifika iktar art biex fuqha jinbnew iktar residenzi meta fiċ-ċensiment ta’ sentejn ilu kienu identifikati 72,150 post residenzjali vojt. M’għandniex bżonn nibnu fuq skala kbira għal ħafna snin. Fil-kuntest tar-reviżjoni tal-pjani lokali Alternattiva Demokratika jidhrilha li għad baqa’ cans żgħir biex nirrimedjaw. Dan jista’jsir billi l-iskema tar-razzjonalizzazzjoni tispiċċa u l-art li kienet hekk identifikata ma tibqax tajba ghall-bini. Huwa importanti ukoll li nifhmu li ma jagħmilx sens li jkollna iktar proġetti massiċċi ta’ żvilupp residenzjali. Il-kwantita’ ta’ propjeta’ residenzjali vakanti għandha tkun fattur ewlieni u l-bażi ta’pjani lokali ġodda.”

Ralph Cassar, Segretarju Generali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika u Kunsillier fil-Lokalita ta’ Ħ’Attard qal li “l-bini bla rażan li għaddej kif ukoll il-fatt illi hawn numru kbir ta’ proprjetajiet vojta qed joħloq pressjoni żejda fuq l-infrastruttura tal-lokalitajiet. Ħ’Attard mhux eċċezzjoni għal dan. Il-flejjes li ser ikunu meħtiega għall-izvilupp u ż-żamma f’kundizzjoni tajba tal-infrastruttura li taqdi dawn it-72,150 post residenzjali vojt setgħu faċilment intużaw biex titjieb l-infrastruttura eżistenti. Iż-żieda fin-numru ta’ propjetajiet residenzjali vojta,” ikkonkluda Cassar, “barra milli toħloq impatti ambjentali inaċċettabbli, hi ukoll ħela ta’ fondi pubbliċi.”

Ic-Chairperson ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika, il-Prof  Arnold Cassola, ikkonkluda  billi qal: “Bil-konċessjoni ta’ żieda ta’ żewg sulari lil-lukandi, bit-tiġdid awtomatiku sa Marzu 2014 tal-permessi ta’ żvilupp li l-MEPA ħarget minn Awwissu 2006 lil hawn, kif ukoll bil-ħrug ta’ diversi permessi għal żvilupp insostenibbli bħal dak ta’ Sqaq Żbibu f’San Gwann, il-MEPA għan-nom tal-gvern qed turi bil-fatti li ma jimpurtahiex mid-drittijiet tar-residenti. Jidher li issa huwa ż-żmien tal-ħlas lura ta’ dak dovut lill-industrija tal-bini talli għenet lill-partit illum fil-gvern qabel l-elezzjoni.”

Biex niġu f’sensina


Il-pjani lokali li jsiru m’humiex hemm għal dejjem. Jeħtieġ li jkunu aġġornati minn żmien għal żmien skond dak li jkun jeħtieġ il-pajjiż.

Mhux kulħadd jagħti prijorita’ lill-istess affarijiet.

Min iħares sal-pont ta’ imnieħru, (short term) bħalma qed jagħmel il-Gvern Laburista li għandna illum kif ukoll kif għamel il-Gvern Nazzjonalista ta’ qablu, jagħti prijorita’ lill-industrija tal-bini għax iqies l-kontribut li  suppost illi din l–industrija qed tagħti lill-ekonomija tal-pajjiż.

Bħalma ġara f’pajjiżi oħra b’konsegwenzi diżastrużi, l-investiment fil-propjeta’ hu bużżieqa li f’pajjiżna ukoll għad trid tinfaqa’ u meta tinfaqa’ ser iweġġgħu ħafna nies. J’alla ddum ma tinfaqa’ u sa dakinnhar nittama li min għandu jiftaħ għajnejħ ikun fetaħom beraħ u  jkun diġa beda jirrimedja.

Hemm bżonn urġenti li nifhmu li l-industrija tal-bini għandha bżonn tkun ristrutturat. Ma tistax tibqa’ tipproduċi iktar propjetajiet reżidenzjali  biex il-parti l-kbira minnhom jibqgħu vojta. Hemm ħtieġa li din l-industrija tkun mgħejjuna tfittex toroq oħra. Hemm ħafna modi kif dan jista’ jsir.

Il-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għall-elezzjoni ta’ Marzu 2013 kien ċar fuq din il-materja. Kien l-uniku wieħed li tkellem ċar fuq l-industrija tal-bini u dwar il-ħtieġa li ma jkollnix iktar proġetti massiċċi ta’ kostruzzjoni reżidenzjali.

72,150 post residenzjali vojt ifisser ħela tar-riżorsi tal-pajjiż. Ifisser ħela ta’ art. Ifisser ħela ta’ kapital investit li seta’ faċilment ġie investit f’oqsma oħra iktar produttivi. Ifisser ħela ta’ riżorsi umani li huma dedikati biex jipproduċu bini destinat li jibqa’ vojt. Riżorsi umani li l-pajjiż jeħtieġ f’oqsma iktar produttivi. Għall-ġid tagħhom, għall-ġid ta’ familtom, għall-ġid tal-pajjiż.

L-industrija tal-bini għandha impatti negattivi ekonomiċi, soċjali u ambjentali.

Ir-reviżjoni tal-pjani lokali hi l-opportunita tad-deheb biex nibdew mexjin fi triq li fuq medda ta’ żmien hi inqas problematika. Triq iebsa u diffiċli. Triq ta’ sagrifiċċju.  Triq li tirrikonoxxi li ġaladarba hawn dan il-bini kollu vojt ma nistgħux nibqgħu nibnu bl-istess ritmu. Ifisser ukoll li jeħtieġ li jonqsu l-impieġi fl-industrija tal-bini u jinħolqu f’oqsma oħra.  Mhux faċli. Imma l-problema saret daqshekk kbira għax Gvern wara l-ieħor għaddas rasu fir-ramel, bħan-ngħam.

Hi l-unika triq li tagħmel sens. Għax ikunu ifisser li bħala pajjiż bdejna ġejjin f’sensina.

kif gie ippubblikat fuq iNews nhar l-Erbgha 4 ta’ Settembru 2013

€9 biljuni mitluqa?

building industry Malta

In-numru ta’ propjetajiet reżidenzjali  vojta qiegħed dejjem jiżdied.

Iċ-ċensiment tal-1995 kien wera li   f’Malta u Għawdex kien hawn 35,723 propjetá reżidenzjali vojta. Għaxar snin wara,  fl-2005 dan in-numru żdied sewwa u laħaq 53,136. L-uffiċċju nazzjonali tal-istatistika diġa’ indika li fiċ-ċensment ta’ Novembru 2011 dan in-numru kompla jiżdied u laħaq it-72,150 post reżidenzjali vojt.

Din il-propjeta’ vojta għandha valur ta’ biljuni ta’ euros. Snin ilu kienet stmata b’valur ta’ €5 biljuni. B’żieda sostanzjali ta’ propjeta’ vojta l-valur issa hu iktar qrib id-€9 biljuni. Dan hu kapital mejjet.  Investiment li sar jew li intiret u ġie mitluq.

Uħud jirraġunaw li x’jiġri (jew ma jiġrix) minn propjetá vojta m’hu affari ta’ ħadd ħlief tas-sidien tal-istess propjetá. Dan ir-raġunament  hu wieħed żbaljat għax il-fatt li propjetá ma tkunx qed tintuża u titħalla vojta għandu impatt fuq il-komunita kollha.

Waqt li hawn 72,150 propjetá reżidenzjali vojta għandna mat-3,000 familja jfittxu saqaf diċenti għal fuq rashom!

Meta propjetá titħalla vojta din toħloq pressjoni biex tinbena iktar art għall-ħtiġijiet li jinqalgħu minn żmien għal żmien. Dan meta dawn il-ħtiġijiet jistgħu faċilment ikunu sodisfatti b’uħud mill-propjetajiet vojta.  L-art li għandna hi limitata u ma nistgħux nibqgħu nibnu iktar art.  Il-pressjoni biex tinbena iżjed art iġġib magħha l-ħtieġa ta’ iktar toroq kif ukoll il-bżonn li jkunu estiżi s-servizzi: is-sistema tad-drenagg, is-servizz tad-distribuzzjoni tal-ilma u tal-elettriku kif ukoll id-dwal fit-toroq.  Dawn is-servizzi huma diġa ipprovduti għall-propjetajiet vojta.  L-ispiża saret imma għal xejn, għax il-propjetá vojta! L-ispiża trid terġa’ issir għall-propjetá li qed tkompli tinbena biex b’hekk inkomplu nżidu ċ-ċimiterju ta’ propjetajiet vojta.

It-72,150 post reżidenzjali vojt f’Novembru 2011 jokkupaw spazju 9 darbiet daqs B’Kara!

Iffaċċjat b’din is-sitwazzjoni l-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista mexxa l-quddiem politika irresponsabbli għax meta fl-2006 ikkonkluda l-pjani lokali flok fittex li jikkkontrolla l-firxa esaġerata tal-bini ġieb il-quddiem politika li tinkoraġixxi iktar bini li m’għandniex bżonnu. Fl-2006 l-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi kellu quddiemu r-riżultat taċ-ċensiment tal-2005 li kien juri żieda sostanzjali fin-numru ta’ propjetá reżidenzjali vojta (minn 35,723 fl-1995 għal 53,136 fl-2005). Flok ma applika l-brejkijiet: żied b’mod sostanzjali l-art li tista’ tinbena, żied in-numru ta’ sulari li jistgħu jinbnew f’ħafna lokalitajiet u għamilha iktar faċli li jinbnew il-penthouses!

Is-sitwazzjoni illum bħala riżultat tal-politika żbaljata tal-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi hi ħafna agħar! Iċ-ċifra ta’ 72,150 post residenzjali vojt f’Novembru 2011 hi allarmanti u tfisser li l-pajjiż m’għandux bżonn ta’ żieda fil- bini reżidenzjali għal snin kbar.

Presentement għaddejjin proċeduri biex ikunu reveduti l-Pjani Lokali. Ikun ġenn jekk dan il-fatt ma jingħatax piż sostanzjali huma u jitħejjew il-Pjani Lokali ġodda.  Ir-reviżjoni tal-Pjani Lokali għandha titlaq minn dan il-punt.

Iż-żmien jagħtina parir jekk il-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat hux ser ikun irresponsabbli daqs dak immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi jew jekk hux ser jibda jsewwi l-problemi.  Id-dikjarazzjonijiet li saru s’issa li l-industrija tal-bini hi meqjusa mill-Partit Laburista bħala pilastru importanti għall-ekonomija tal-pajjiż m’huwiex ta’ awgurju tajjeb.

Flok nibnu iktar ikun aħjar li nagħmlu użu aħjar minn dak li hu diġa mibni. Hawn propjeta’ reżidenzjali  mibnija iżda mhiex użata li tista’ isservi l-ħtiġijiet tal-pajjiż  għal snin twal.

ippubblikat oriġinalment fuq iNews nhar it-Tlieta 27 t’Awwissu 2013

Local plans, and not regional


MEPA has embarked on a process which will lead to a revision of the seven existing  Local Plans. Five were approved in 2006. Two of them were approved earlier: the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan (1995) and the Grand Harbour Local Plan (2002).

With the exception of the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan (which regulates  Birżebbuġa, Marsaxlokk and their surrounding areas) all the Local Plans cover extensive areas. The Structure Plan, approved in 1990 and currently subject to revision, had identified the need for 24 Local Plans addressing urban areas, as well as other unspecified plans for Rural Conservation Areas. Initially when MEPA approved the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan it started along this path but then it opted for plans which are more regional than local in nature.

Local Plans are necessary in order that planning policy is appropriately applied at a local level where one can focus on practical considerations. Though there may be overlaps between Local Plans covering similar areas there will also be variations resulting from the specific nature of the different localities. There will be inevitable similarities between, for example, a Local Plan addressing Valletta and Floriana on one hand and another one addressing the Three Cities due to the fact that both contain vast stretches of fortifications.  However the planning issues arising may also lead to different considerations both in respect of what is to be prohibited as well as in what ought to be encouraged.

Local Plans are not neutral policy instruments. Departing from the common need to ensure a continuous maintenance programme for the fortifications (which programme is currently in hand)  Local Plans may explore different potential uses to which the fortifications in two completely different areas may be put. This would be dependent on the infrastructural services in the area  and on the impacts generated by the potential use  on the surrounding amenities and localities. It would be much easier to ensure that this is done through two separate local plans, one specifically addressing Valletta and Floriana and the other addressing just the Three Cities.

It is not just an issue of fortifications. The large number of vacant properties, currently totalling  over 72,000 cannot be addressed adequately at a regional level. Different policies and different targets have to be identified at a local level as both the causes as well as the extent of the problem vary from one locality to another.

Boundaries of a number of Urban Conservation Areas (UCAs) were substantially revised in 2006 on the understanding that it is better to limit the extent of a UCA to that which is necessary and essential. Consequently it should stand to reason that a smaller UCA is much better to regulate and monitor.

A number of vacant properties lie within UCAs as it costs much more to bring such properties to an adequate state compatible to modern standards of living. This is an area which has already been explored in the last years with various fiscal incentives being offered to encourage rehabilitaton and the reuse of such properties. Much more needs to be done. The revision of the Local Plans is another opportunity to re-examine the way forward in tackling the ever increasing number of vacant properties. The proposed policies must however be focused and local in nature as otherwise they will fail to have any impact at all.

As emphasised by eNGOs  the Local Plans should also be an opportunity to consider the integration of environmental policy and its applicability at a local level. Whilst all environmental policy is of relevance to our localities two particular areas easily spring to mind: air quality and noise pollution.

Both air quality and noise control standards can be undoubtedly upgraded if action is taken at a local level. Traffic generated is a major contributor to both. Heavy traffic through residential areas has to be reduced. If the Local Plans address this issue they will be simultaneously contributing to a better air quality and less acoustic pollution in urban areas.

From declarations made in the past weeks it is obvious that one of the controversial issues to be tackled, (most probably in a plan addressing rural areas) would be agro-tourism.  This is a very sensitive matter . If the point of departure is to seek to establish new development zones on the pretext of tourism than such proposals would be unacceptable. If on the other hand such a Rural Plan addresses the use of existing  agricultural holdings aiming to maximise the use of their existing footprint, provide a different touristic experience as well as  provide alternative or additional employment opportunities to our agricultural communities then there is room for considerable discussion.

The Local Plans to be produced will have an impact on our quality of life for the next ten years. It is hence imperative to not only ensure a high level of participation in the consultation process but that the resulting proposals are given due consideration.

This article was published in The Times of Malta, Saturday August 10, 2013

One size fits all


I have heard from reliable sources that government through MEPA is considering doing away with all seven Local Plans and substituting them with just three.

The Local Plans currently in effect are the following : Marsaxlokk Bay (1995), Grand Harbour (2002), North West (2006), Central Malta (2006), North Harbour (2006), South Malta (2006),  Gozo and Comino (2006).

The Structure Plan had envisaged the preparation of 24 Local Plans as well as Plans covering Rural Conservation Areas.

The Local Plans mentioned in the Structure Plan were the following :

1. Valletta/Floriana

2. The Three Cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua

3. Sliema, Gzira, and Ta’ Xbiex

4. St. Julians, San Gwann, and Pembroke

5. Msida, Pieta, and Gwardamangia

6. Marsa, Qormi, Hamrun, and Santa Venera

7. Birkirkara and the Three Villages of Lija, Balzan, and Attard

8. Paola, Tarxien, and Santa Lucia

9. Kalkara, Rinella, and Xghajra

10. Zabbar and Fgura

11. Luqa, Gudja, Ghaxaq, Mqabba, Kirkop, and Qrendi

12. Marsaxlokk Bay and its vicinity including Marsaxlokk and Birzebbugia

13. Zejtun, Marsascala, and St. Thomas Bay

14. Zurrieq and Safi

15. Siggiewi and Zebbug

16. Rabat, Mdina, and Dingli

17. Mosta, Naxxar, Gharghur, and Burmarrad

18. St. Paul’s Bay, Bugibba, Qawra, and Mellieha

19. Victoria and Fontana

20. Qala, Ghajnsielem, and Mgarr

21. Xaghra and Nadur

22. Xewkija and Sannat

23. Kercem, San Lawrenz, Munxar, and Xlendi

24. Gharb, Ghasri, Zebbug, and Marsalforn

It is clear that the proposal in the Structure Plan, which was not adhered to, intended the micro-managing of development through having the proposed Local Plans focusing on a relatively small area. The resulting policies would have been site specific and not of a general nature. Unfortunately this was not done as the only Local Plan which covers a small area is that related to Marsaxlokk Bay.

It defeats the purpose for which Local Plans are intended if they cover a large area.  By their very nature Local Plans are intended to cover a small area and consequently to address the potential development in such areas through appropriate policies which may need to be and generally are specific to the area. The policies adopted for one area are not necessarily applicable to another. Hence the need for “local” plans

The revision of the Local Plans is the ideal opportunity to get things done right.

But will they?