F’Paceville, il-Gvern jaħdmek

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L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ippubblikat, għal skop ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika, dokument dwar Paceville. Dan hu dokument li għal darba jaħseb fit-tul. Iħares lejn l-iżvilupp ippjanat għall-inħawi fit-tul u b’mod ħolistiku. Sa hawn, tajjeb, għax hekk għandhom isiru l-affarijiet.

Imma meta tibda taqra id-dettalji, jibdew il-mistoqsijiet. L-ikbar mistoqsija hi dwar jekk l-awtoritajiet humiex, għal darb’oħra, qed jippruvaw jaħdmuna billi jinqdew bl-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art biex iħaxxnu l-bwiet ta’ uħud: dawk li jmaxtru dejjem u f’kull żmien.

Il-pjan, fost oħrajn, jidentifika l-ħtiġijiet infrastrutturali ta’ numru ta’ proġetti (disa’ fil-għadd), ewlenin fosthom toroq u probabbilment mina taħt l-art u dan biex ikun iffaċilitat l-aċċess għal Paceville li qed titfassal. Dawn il-ħtiġijiet infrastrutturali, jgħid il-masterplan għal Paceville, huma meħtieġa biex jilqgħu għall-moviment sostanzjali ta’ persuni li huwa antiċipat li dan l-iżvilupp kollu ser jiġġenera.

Min ser idaħħal idu fil-but u jagħmel tajjeb għal dawn l-ispejjes kollha?

Qed tissemma ċ-ċifra ta’ nofs biljun ewro li fil-fehma ta’ ħafna għandha tinħareġ kollha, jew tal-inqas il-parti l-kbira minnha, mill-iżviluppaturi. Għax inkella ser nerġgħu nispiċċaw fis-sitwazzjoni li huma jimpalaw il-profitti, u ħaddieħor mit-taxxi jħallas il-kontijiet. Kontijiet li ġieli inħallsuhom b’saħħitna u drabi oħra billi t-taxxi tagħna jagħmlu tajjeb għall-ħtiġijiet tagħhom.

Il-President tal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Sandro Chetcuti diġà qal, li, fil-fehma tiegħu, jkun aħjar jekk l-ewwel issir l-infrastruttura u wara jsir l-iżvilupp propost. Dan ifisser ħaġa waħda: li l-iżviluppaturi jippretendu li l-investiment massiċċ meħtieġ fl-infrastruttura għandu jsir mill-Gvern, mit-taxxi li jiġbor. Għax taf inti, issa għandna Gvern pro-business u għalihom dan ifisser li l-Gvern qiegħed prinċipalment għas-servizz tagħhom!

Hemm punt ieħor ta’ importanza fundamentali. Il-pjan għal Paceville jitkellem fuq ħafna ħwejjeġ. Imma jħalli barra lir-residenti li joqgħodu hemm illum. Dawk huma l-istess nies li ilhom jaqilgħu ġo fihom snin twal. Il-masterplan ma jsemmihom imkien. Jinjorhom kompletament kif diġà ġara matul is-snin. Dan iwassal għall-konklużjoni inkwetanti li r-residenti li hemm illum m’humiex meqjusa li huma importanti għal min fassal il-pjan. Ovvja għaliex: għax il-pjan hu pro-business u jpoġġi lin-nies fil-ġemb. Għax lir-residenti jqishom xkiel billi dawn dejjem joġġezzjonaw, daqqa fuq  ħaġa u daqqa fuq oħra!

Dan it-tip ta’ ippjanar ma jagħmilx ġid u m’għandniex bżonnu. In-nies u l-ħtiġijiet tagħhom huma wara kollox il-qofol tal-ippjanar serju. Imma sfortunatament il-pjan għal Paceville hu mibni fuq pedamenti differenti. Għax il-filosofija tal-pjan hu li l-art, il-ġebel, il-konkos u l-azzar jiġu qabel in-nies.

Din hi triq li twassal għal Gvern li jaħdmek biex jistagħnew l-ispekulaturi. Inti trid li pajjiżna jkompli miexi f’din it-triq?

Ippubblikat f Illum : il-Ħadd 9 t’Ottubru 2016

 

Paceville Master Plan: greed or need?

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Land use planning is essentially public control over the use and development of land, so it necessarily follows that it should not be a speculators’ shopping list implemented by the state.

Unfortunately, the Paceville Master Plan is just such a shopping list as it collates together the requirements of nine mega-projects and presents them as a “master plan”. In fact Sandro Chetcuti, on behalf of the Malta Developers’ Association, reacted to the Master Plan by stating that it “ fails to address the possibility of new projects that could involve existing buildings and concentrated too much on nine particular sites.”   Mr Chetcuti’s Association is also feeling excluded.

And the residents have the same feeling; they have been excluded by a master plan which focuses on the interests of business – in particular  the interests of mega-speculators.

Not so long ago, in May 2012, The Social Affairs Committee of Malta’s Parliament  published a 63-page report on Paceville in which it emphasised the fact that right there, in the midst of this entertainment Mecca, there was also  a residential community. The conflicts between these two interests can at times be substantial and yet the Master Plan ignores these conflicts completely. The only residents in which the Master Plan is interested  are those who will purchase  apartments in the new developments.

The five over-arching objectives of the Master Plan emphasise the creation of a development vision which can be described in one word : “Dubai-ification”. Painted in glossy words as “Clear Brand and Identity” , “Access and Connectivity”,  “Planned and Managed Change”, “Quality Place-Making” and “Private-Public Partnerships”, at the end of the day “Dubai-ification” is what the Paceville Master Plan is all about.

The problems currently faced by Paceville are basically no different from those faced by other parts of Malta. Yet the Master Plan document wastes a substantial number of its 234 pages in order to emphasise the obvious. For example, it emphasises that Paceville is dominated by traffic and on-street parking. However, the consultants drawing up the plan then stopped short of proposing – as a preferred option –  measures that would  radically address the area’s dependence on cars. They did not choose the option to create an environment that is not dominated by the car, thus missing an opportunity to eliminate traffic congestion in Paceville that would have had the additional  benefit of improving local air quality.

While the Master Plan consultants went into great detail about issues that are covered in various national environmental policy documents, they did not consider it necessary to examine in any detail the area’s tourism-carrying capacity. The Master Plan does not examine whether it makes sense to keep on encouraging hotel construction in an area that is already saturated with such development. It takes the issue for granted and opts to propose reserving the Paceville coastline for future hotel redevelopment and expansion. This matter calls for some serious consideration, as tourism cannot continue on a never ending expanding trajectory due to the substantial environmental constraints which we face on a daily basis.

The cherry on the cake is the reference to “potential land reclamation” on the Portomaso site. The Master Plan warns that, though relatively shallow, the site lies very close to a Marine Special Conservation Area, a fact which necessitates a very sensitive approach.

The manner in which the Master Plan is presented tries to camouflage its obvious speculator “shopping list” features. Most of the projects indicated have been in the pipeline for years, and for each and every one of them there is a growing list of concerned residents from the whole of Paceville and neighbouring localities. By trying to present the mega-speculators greed as a national need the proposed Master Plan is doing a disservice to the never ending debate on land use planning in Malta.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 9 October 2016

The Paceville Master Plan: a preliminary peek

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In an event marking European Mobility Week, Transport Minister Joe Mizzi announced various initiatives which, if properly implemented would contribute to a reduction in the amount of congestion on our roads. Studies on the feasibility of a tram service, car-sharing and bike-sharing, as well as e-bike schemes are all welcome initiatives.

Barely 48 hours after Minister Mizzi had made his announcements, the Planning Authority published a draft Paceville master plan for public consultation which also contains a number of transport related initiatives. It is entitled Paceville. Malta’s prime coastal location. Development Framework. Given the almost simultaneous announcements, it is not known whether there was any consultation with the  Transport Ministry.

The proposed master plan seeks to establish parameters for the further development or redevelopment of Paceville in view of the high concentration of large-scale development projects in the area, most of which are still in the pipeline, including various proposals for the development of high-rise buildings. Readers will remember that, way back in 2008, a Professor Mir Ali from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign USA had advised the then MEPA on the urban design strategy to be adopted when considering the future of tall buildings in Malta. (Tall Buildings: the advice ignored by the Maltese authorities TMIS, 26 June)

Professor Ali had then emphasised the need to draw up a master plan identifying and addressing the impacts of tall buildings.  This advice was ignored when the Floor Area Ratio policy was drawn up by the Planning Authority. Likewise, it was ignored regarding development proposals currently under consideration in Sliema – notably on the Tignè peninsula.

The Mott-Macdonald draft master plan for Paceville is a vindication of Professor Mir Ali’s advice. Professor Ali stressed that Malta needed to pull up its socks on issues of public transport, irrespective of whether high-rise buildings are developed or not. An efficient, integrated and sustainable public transport system is essential in under-pinning the essential infrastructure for tall buildings. Way back in 2008  Professor Mir Ali had emphasised that this must cover the whole of Malta and Gozo and should not be limited to just Paceville!

The Mott-Macdonald draft master plan puts forward three options through which it presents two contrasting transport strategies for public discussion. The first option, entitled Sustainable Transport Strategy seeks to reduce the dominance of the car and places considerable emphasis on the pedestrianisation of Paceville (including the pedestrianisation of coast), cycling facilities and bike sharing schemes, and seeks to ensure that  public transport is within easy reach – not more than a four-minute walk away.

The second option, aptly labelled Car-Based Transport Strategy defends the car’s dominance on our roads and puts the emphasis on reducing congestion by improving road intersections and better traffic management through an intelligent transport system and also proposes the introduction of a tunnel to be bored beneath Paceville. The third option, misleadingly labelled as the Balanced Transport Strategy, is a mixture of the first two options with the proposed tunnel shifted to the edge of Paceville.

The Mott-Macdonald draft strategy suggests that the third option is the preferred option.

During the coming six weeks (the length of the consultation period) we will have the opportunity to dissect the different transport strategies as well as the other proposals in the draft master plan. The draft is over 200 pages long and deals with various development, transport and infrastructural options of relevance to the various Paceville development proposals and is to be implemented over a number of years.

It is right and proper that the impacts of the extensive developments projected for Paceville are examined cumulatively and in a holistic manner. Such an attitude and methodology, if maintained throughout, can only lead to workable solutions that will benefit everyone’s.

It does, however, inevitably beg the question: why is all this applicable to Paceville but ignored in respect of the Tignè peninsula in Sliema, as well as elsewhere else?

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday, 25 September 2016