Sens komun: fil-Mosta u f’Marsaxlokk

 

 

Matul dawn l-aħħar ġranet, Alternattiva Demokratika kienet qed tikkampanja kontra żvilupp massiċċ li ġie propost kemm fil-Mosta kif ukoll f’Marsaxlokk.  Din hi kampanja li ilha li bdiet ħdax-il sena, u tibqa’ għaddejja,  kontra t-tkabbir taż-żona żviluppabbli proposta minn George Pullicino, dakinnhar Ministru responsabbli għall-ambjent u l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art.

Nhar il-Ġimgħa, f’Marsaxlokk, kien ta’ sodisfazzjoni li s-Sindku Horace Gauci, elett f’isem il-Partit Laburista, ingħaqad magħna ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika waqt konferenza stampa b’appoġġ għar-residenti Tal-Marnisi Marsaxlokk.

Hi kampanja biex is-sens komun favur l-ambjent jipprevali fuq id-deċiżjoni li kien ħa l-Parlament fl-2006 meta l-Gvern immexxi mill-PN mexxa ‘l-quddiem proposta biex żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta’ art li kienu barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp, ma jibqgħux iktar ODZ u minn dakinnhar jibdew jiffurmaw parti miż-żona ta’ żvilupp. Dan sar mingħajr ma ġew eżaminati l-impatti ta’ deċiżjoni bħal din, lejliet li kellha tidħol fis-seħħ id-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar il-kejl tal-impatti strateġiċi ambjentali. Li ma sarx dan l-kejl, ifisser li l-impatti kumulattivi tal-iżvilupp li kien qed ikun propost kienu kompletament injorati.

Nhar it-Tnejn 20 ta’ Marzu l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar ħa żewġ deċiżjonijiet kontrastanti dwar żewġ meded kbar ta’ art. Dwar l-ewwel waħda, art agrikola fil-Mosta tal-qies ta’ 38500 metru kwadru l-proposta bi pjan ta’ żvilupp kienet rifjutata filwaqt li dwar it-tieni waħda ukoll primarjament agrikola u b’qies ta’ 17,530 metru kwadru, l-propost pjan ta’ żvilupp kien approvat.

Fiż-żewġ każi ma sar l-ebda eżami tal-impatti soċjali, ekonomiċi u ambjentali u dan billi l-professjonisti tal-ippjanar li taw il-parir lill-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar kienu tal-fehma li d-deċiżjoni tal-2006 tal-Parlament kienet kemm ċara kif ukoll finali. Sfortunatament ma dehrilhomx meħtieġ li jeżaminhaw dan minn lenti kritika.

Fl-2006, il-Parlament kien iddeċieda li dawn iż-żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta’ art ma kellhomx iktar ikunu meqjusa bħala barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp (ODZ). Il-grupp parlamentari tal-PN kien ivvota favur din il-proposta, u dan jispjega l-għaliex dak li taparsi kkonverta favur l-ambjent, Simon Busuttil, għadu ma fetaħx ħalqu dwar dan kollu.  Imma l-Partit Laburista, dakinnhar fl-Opposizzjoni ma kienx qabel u kien ivvota kontra li din l-art tkun tista’ tingħata għall-iżvilupp. Għalhekk Joseph Muscat bħalissa qiegħed f’posizzjoni imbarazzanti.

Il-Partit Laburista għadu tal-istess fehma, jew bidel il-ħsieb? Għax issa waslet is-siegħa tal-prova. X’ser jagħmel? Għax anke jekk ikun meqjus li d-deċiżjoni tal-Parlament tal-2006 titfa’ ċerti obbligi fuq il-Gvern u fuq l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, xorta hu possibli li l-impatt tal-iżvilupp massiv li ġie propost ikun imtaffi.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-20 ta’ Marzu tal-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar li biha l-applikazzjoni dwar l-art fil-Mosta kienet rifjutat hu l-mod kif għandhom isiru l-affarijiet. Hi deċiżjoni li s-Segretarju Parlamentari Deborah Schembri għandha żżomm quddiem għajnejha meta l-każ ta’ Marsaxlokk jiġi quddiema biex tikkunsidra jekk tagħtix l-approvazzjoni tagħha. Jiena naħseb li s-Segretarju Parlamentari Schembri għandha tibgħat il-każ ta’ Marsaxlokk lura quddiem l- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar biex ikun ikkunsidrat mill-ġdid.

Żvilupp massiv ta’ din ix-xorta m’għandux ikun possibli meta hawn tant propjetajiet residenzjali vojta. Anke f’Marsaxlokk stess l-aħħar ċensiment, dak tal-2011, juri li 18.7% tar-residenzi huma battala filwaqt li 5.9% tagħhom jintużaw biss kultant. Nistgħu nibqgħu nibnu bil-goff meta għandna din il-kwantitá ta’ propjetá vojta?

Għandna bżonn ftit sens komun fl-ippjanar ta’ l-użu ta’ l-art. Sens komun li jagħti piz u konsiderazzjoni tal-impatti fuq il-komunitá kollha qabel ma jittieħdu deċiżjoniiet bħal dawn.

Fiż-żewġ każi, l-Mosta u Marsaxlokk, qed nitkellmu dwar raba’ li kienet tinħadem u li issa intelqet minħabba l-pressjoni kkawżata mill-iżvilupp. Dan hu process li jeħtieġ li nwaqqfuh minnufih. Illum qabel għada.

 

ippubblikat f’ Illum –  2 t’April 2017

Green sense is common sense

 

In the last few days Alternattiva Demokratika-the Green Party- has been campaigning against over-development at both Mosta and Marsaxlokk. It is the renewal of an everlasting campaign, started 11 years ago against the increase in the development zone piloted by former Environment and Land Use Planning Minister George Pullicino.

In Marsaxlokk last Friday we were joined by Labour Mayor Horace Gauci who arrived at, and addressed an AD press conference in support of the residents of Il-Marnisi, Marsaxlokk, in view of the impact of the rationalisation exercise in the area.

It is a campaign to see green sense prevail over the rationalisation exercise, as a result of which, in 2006 on the proposal of a PN-led government, Parliament included around two million square metres of land within the development zone overnight. This was done without a strategic environment assessment having been carried out to examine the proposals. It was on the eve of the coming into force of the Strategic Environment Assessment EU Directive which, just days later, would have made such an assessment compulsory. Not carrying out such an assessment signifies that the cumulative impacts of development were ignored by not being factored into the decision-taking process.

On 20 March, the Planning Authority Executive Committee took two contrasting decisions in respect of two large tracts of land. Regarding the first – 38,500 square metres of agricultural land at Mosta –  the scheme for a development proposal was turned down, while in respect of the second – 17,530 square metres of largely agricultural land in Marsaxlokk – the proposal for development was approved.

In neither case was any assessment of the social, economic and environmental impact carried out, as the professional land-use planners advising the Executive Committee of the Planning Authority consider that Parliament’s decision in 2006 was definite and any assessment unnecessary. Unfortunately they did not think it appropriate to examine the matters before them critically.

In 2006, Parliament had decided that this two million square metre area of land, formerly considered as ODZ land, was henceforth to be part of the development zone. The PN Parliamentary group had  voted in favour of this proposal, which is why the pseudo-environmental convert Simon Busuttil is completely silent on the issue. However, the Labour Party Opposition voted against the proposal, thus placing Joseph Muscat in an awkward position today.

Has the Labour Party changed its views? The chickens are now coming home to roost.

When push comes to shove, and notwithstanding the PN mantra that “ODZ is ODZ”, the PN always seeks to consent to ODZ development, as long as such development is given the go-ahead when it is in the driving seat!

But what about the Labour Party today? Even if it factors in the views of those who maintain that the 2006 decision ties its hands, it can certainly take mitigation measures that would substantially reduce the negative impact of the 2006 parliamentary decision which favours such massive over-development.

The decision of the Executive Committee of the Planning Authority on the 20 March to reject the proposal for the development of the tract of land in Mosta is the way forward. It should be taken on board by Parliamentary Secretary for land use planning Deborah Schembri when the Marsaxlokk case is placed on her desk for her consideration. I respectfully ask Ms Schembri to request the Planning Authority to reconsider its decision and hence send it back to the drawing board.

The proposed reconsideration should be undertaken primarily because such massive development is not required: it is not necessary to sacrifice so much agricultural land. (I am informed that on the site there is also a small stretch of garigue with a number of interesting botanical specimens.) The results of the 2011 Census indicated that 18.7 per cent of Marsaxlokk’s housing stock was then vacant and 5.9 per cent of it only in occasional use.  Why should we keep adding to the vacant housing stock through proposals for massive development projects?

We need some green sense in the planning of land-use. We need some common sense in considering the impact on the whole community before far-reaching decisions are taken.  In both cases mentioned above, the land that has been the subject of proposed  development schemes is agricultural land that has fallen into disuse as a result of development pressures. This process should be reversed forthwith, and the sooner the better: it is only common sense.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 2 April 2017

Il-ħut fil-baħar ta’ Sandro Chetcuti

Fi stqarrija li ħarġet l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi, bi tweġiba ovvja għall-konferenza stampa li jiena indirizzajt il-bieraħ fMarsaxlokk, Sandro Chetcuti qed jiddefendi lil min xtara l-ħut fil-baħar.

Għax hekk ġralu min xtara art li l-Parlament fl-2006 approva biex tkun tajba għall-bini, bħalma għamlu dawk li xtraw l-art fil-Mosta (Torri Cumbo) u Marsaxlokk (Marnisi), fl-aħbarijiet fdawn il-ġranet.

Meta fl-2006 il-Parlament bil-voti favur tal-Membri Parlamentari Nazzjonalisti u bil-voti kontra tal-Membri Parlamentari Laburisti approva li żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta art minn ODZ saru parti miżżona ta żvilupp ma iddeċiediex xseta jinbena fuqhom. L-anqas ma iddeċieda l-għoli li seta jinbena.

Imma min kellu l-art f’ħafna każi fassal it-toroq u beda jbiegħ il-plots. U għamel kemxa ġmielha!

Min approva fejn ser jgħaddu t-toroq?

Ħadd. Tant li meta per eżempju nhar l-20 ta Marzu l-Kumitat Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar kien qed jiddiskuti l-applikazzjoni tal-Mosta (dawk it-38,500 metru kwadru ħdejn it-Torri Cumbo) wieħed mill-membri tal-kumitat qal li l-applikanti ippruvaw jorbtu idejn l-Awtoritá billi fasslu t-toroq u qasmu l-plots bdawn it-toroq qabel ma ittieħdet id-deċiżjoni.

Issa xjiġri jekk l-Awtorita tal-Ippjanar tiddeċiedi (kif għandha kull dritt li tagħmel) li tfassal it-toroq bmod differenti? Jew inkella jekk tiddeċiedi li l-art għandha tinbena bdensitá baxxa, bsular wieħed biss?

Dan kollu Sandro ma jgħidux. Għax min fittex li jbiegħ l-art daħaq bin-nies meta qassamhom fi plots kif ried hu u mingħajr ma kellu f’idejh il-permessi tal-ippjanar biex ikun jista jagħmel dan.

Xtraw il-plots meta ma kellhom l-ebda konferma dwar xjista jinbena fuqhom. L-anqas biss ma kellhom konferma li l-plot li xtraw kellha faċċata mat-triq.

Għalhekk xtraw il-ħut fil-baħar.

 

Triq Durumblat : ħdejn it-Torri Cumbo Mosta

 

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Durumblat hu (jew kien) isem ta qasam art bejn il-Mosta u Ta Vnezja li jibqa tiegħla lejn l-Imdina. Il-kelma Durumblat, jgħidilna Erin Serracino-Inglott fil-kapulavur tiegħu Il-Miklem Malti  trid tfisser ħotba fil-blat.

Imma din il-ħotba fil-blat ftit għadha tidher bil-bini sfrenat li tela tul is-snin.

Issa fl-aħħar forsi ser nieqfu biex naħsbu ftit dwar xinhu jiġri. Id-deċiżjoni tal-bieraħ tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li tirrifjuta l-applikazzjoni biex art fil-periferija tal-Mosta tkun żviluppata bmod intensiv toffri tama li s-sens komun fl-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art fpajjiżna għadu ma intilifx għal kollox. L-applikazzjoni PC 039/09 kienet biex ikun determinat xtip ta żvilupp hu permissibbli fuq art tal-qies ta 38,600 metru kwadru ħdejn it-Torri Cumbo l-Mosta.

Il-bierah jiena kont preżenti għas-seduta tal- Awtoritá u fisem residenti fl-inħawi tkellimt kontra din l-applikazzjoni.  Fissirt kif l-iżvilupp propost hu wieħed massiv u li kien neċessarju li jkun magħruf, permezz ta studji apposta, xinhu l-impatt, mhux biss ta dan l-iżvilupp iżda ukoll fuq l-impatt kumulattiv. Jiġifieri meta tqis kemm l-impatt tal-bini eżistenti u żżid miegħu l-impatt tal-bini ġdid propost.

Jiena konxju li l-istorja mhux ser tieqaf hawn. Id-deċiżjoni żbaljata favur l-iżvilupp ilha li ttieħdet sa mill-2006 meta l-Parlament iddeċieda li madwar żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta art fil-periferija tal-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna jingħataw għall-iżvilupp. Dakinnhar kienu qalu li dan kien eżerċizzju ta razzjonalizzazzjoni. Imma jiddispjaċini ngħid li hu kollox barra razzjonali!

Huwa neċessarju li qabel ma din l-applikazzjoni tkun ikkunsidrata mill-ġdid, kif inevitabilment ser jiġri, ikun ikkunsidrat bir-reqqa l-impatt soċjali, ekonomiku u ambjentali ta dan l-iżvilupp massiċċ. Hemm ħtieġa li jsiru l-istudji neċessarji li jikkwantifikaw dan l-impatt kif ukoll li jkunu identifikati miżuri ta mitigazzjoni. 

Fost oħrajn għandna niftakru li l-aħħar ċensiment li sar fl-2011 kien żvela li minn 8359 residenza fil-Mosta, 16.2% kienu vakanti u 3.2% oħra kienu użati okkazjonalment. Dan waħdu diġa huwa raġuni valida biżżejjed li minħabba fiha dan it-tip ta żvilupp għandu jkun skoraġġit.

Għandu jkun ikkunsidrat ukoll li għall-futur, il-kunsiderazzjoni ta applikazzjonijiet ta din ix-xorta għandhom ikunu akkumpanjati minn miżuri innovattivi ta ħarsien ambjentali fosthom l-obbligu tal-ġenerazzjoni ta elettriku mix-xemx btali mod li kull waħda mill-units reżidenzjali permessi tkun carbon neutral.

Din id-deċiżjoni tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, hi lezzjoni għall-Gvern u l-Oppożizzjoni: wasal iżżmien li d-deċiżjoni stupida li kien ħa l-Parlament fl-2006 tkun reveduta. Mhux biss dwar l-art fil-Mosta iżda dwar kull wieħed miżżewġ miljuni metru kwadru li dakinnhar ingħataw għall-iżvilupp.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi kburija li tul dawn l-aħħar ħdax-il sena ma waqfitx titkellem fuq din il-materja u tistieden lill-Gvern u l-Oppożizzjoni biex jiftħu għajnejhom u jingħaqdu magħha biex din id-deċiżjoni ħażina tal-Parliament fl-2006 tkun indirizzata.

Mosta : 38,600 metri kwadri oħra għall-bini

 

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Iktar kmieni dal-għodu fkonferenza stampa fil-periferija tal-Mosta, ħdejn it-Torri Cumbo, Alternattiva Demokratika reġgħet semmgħet leħinnha dwar żvilupp żejjed u l-qerda tar-raba.

L-art li se tintmiss din id-darba fiha qies ta madwar 38,600 metru kwadru. Dwarha l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar nhar it-Tnejn li ġej se tiddeċiedi dwar xtip ta żvilupp se jkun possibli fuqha.

L-aħħar ċensiment li sar fl-2011 kien żvela li minn 8359 residenza fil-Mosta, 16.2% kienu vakanti u 3.2% oħra kienu użati okkazjonalment. Allura għalfejn l-awtoritiajiet kontinwament jinkoraġġixxu żvilupp massiċċ?

Din hi medda oħra ta art li fl-2006 l-Gvern ta dakinhar kien iddeċieda li tista tinbena. Dakinhar il-Partit Laburista fil-Parlament kien ivvota kontra u l-Partit Nazzjonalista kien ivvota favur din il-qerda.

L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar se tikkonsidra l-applikazzjoni PC 039/09 li biha fdin iżżona se jkun permess żvilupp ta tliet sulari u semi-basement bbini ta għoli ta 17.50 metru minn wiċċ it-triq. L-art hi mqassma fi 93 plot individwali u 8 biċċiet oħra ta art li sissa ma ġewx imqassma fi plots. Din l-art, meta tinbena tista iżżid numru konsiderevoli ta propjetajiet vojta ma dawk li diġa hemm.

Bħal din l-art hemm medded oħra ta art li kemm-il darba tkellimna fuqhom, inkluż fi Triq Dun Mikiel Xerri, fit-tarf ta Ħ’Attard.

Alternattiva Demokratika tistieden lill-Partit Laburista li fl-2006 ivvota kontra l-iżvilupp ta din l-art u oħrajn bħalha, biex ikun konsistenti u jieħu l-passi neċessarji, dejjem sakemm ma reġax bdielu, issa li qiegħed fil-Gvern.

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

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 : proposta għal Villa ODZ

Toni Bezzina, Perit u Membru tal-Parlament, applika fisem il-familja biex jibni ODZ. Fatt li ġie żvelat illum fil-gazzetta KulĦadd.

Id-deskrizzjoni tal-applikazzjoni fuq is-sit elettroniku tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar tgħid hekk: Rehabilitation and restoration of existing almond grove and World War II living quarters and observation room. Proposed pool and new access. Imma meta tara l-pjanti issib xi ħaġa oħra: villa bi tlett ikmamar tas-sodda u swimming pool fODZ.

Għażel li jirtira l-applikazzjoni minħabba l-lealtá tiegħu lejn il-partit, qal.

Imma Toni Bezzina ma qalx li hu wieħed mill-awturi tar-rapport tal-PN dwar l-ambjent.

Kif inhu possibli li tkun temmen dak li inkiteb fir-rapport u fl-istess ħin tippreżenta dik l-applikazzjoni biex tinbena villa ODZ?

Ir-risposta hi sempliċi, għax dak li tkun ktibt ma temminx fih, bħall-PN inifsu li bħalissa jrid jipprova jikkonvinċina li qalbu taħarqu għall-ambjent. Ovvjament, l-applikazzjoni taToni Bezzina hi prova ta kemm qed jippruvaw jgħaddu n-nies biżżmien.

Marsa: a planning mess

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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

Paceville: protecting the underdogs

paceville-mp-land-use

As the short time allotted for public consultation on the proposed first draft of the Paceville Masterplan approaches its conclusion, it is time for some commonsense to prevail at the Planning Authority.

On TV, last Thursday, we heard the Authority’s Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg plotting the first steps of a U-turn on a number of contentious issues contained in the draft. This U-turn is welcome, as it is clearly being planned on the basis of the reactions of the public and the environmental NGOs to the proposed Paceville Masterplan.

The most serious point at issue is the extent to which the nine projects around which the Masterplan is woven will engulf properties belonging to residents and small scale business people. It will hopefully now be clear, once and for all, that no one will be coerced through threats of compulsory purchase (veiled or otherwise) to make way for any one of the nine projects.

Mr Buttigieg declared that “no-one would be forced to sell”. While this declaration is welcome, it is certainly not sufficient. Everyone is aware that there are many ways through which pressure may be brought to bear on residents and business people. It is certainly time for all stakeholders to be vigilant and present a common front.  Being constantly on the look-out may help  identify those triggering incidents such as that of the car which was recently set ablaze in St George’s Park at Paceville at the same time as residents were meeting elsewhere to discuss their reactions to the proposed Paceville Masterplan.

The Planning Authority should be proactive. It should be at the forefront when it comes to taking initiatives that make sense. A case in point is the need to implement the public domain legislation recently enacted by Parliament  in order to better protect both the coastline and the foreshore to a minimum distance of fifteen metres from the shoreline.

It is well known that there is just one stretch of coastline within the draft Paceville Masterplan boundaries that is not intensively developed: the Cresta Quay site, also referred to as the Villa Rosa site 3. This site is crying out for protection and it can be protected, yet the draft masterplan – ignoring public domain legislation  – earmarks this site for a number of high rise blocks.

This proposal, in addition to reducing the recently approved public domain legislation to hot air, runs counter to the draft masterplan philosophy of siting high-rise developments away from the coast. It seems that someone may have been pressured into having second thoughts when the Masterplan was being drafted. There is no other reasonable explanation for this contradiction.

The public consultation has revealed that the drafting of the Paceville Masterplan was flawed, as it ignored issues of fundamental importance.  However, there is till time for the Planning Authority to align the Masterplan to the expectations of stakeholders. The belated declaration by Johann Buttigieg that (after all) he too has reservations on some aspects of the Masterplan is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this will be reflected in an overhaul of the draft and in the production of a new one which respects the stakeholders who have invested in Paceville over the years.

The investors promoting the nine projects which the Planning Authority identified may contribute to the regeneration of Paceville only if they tread carefully in full respect of residents and small-scale business people who have shaped the present-day Paceville, warts and all.

So far, this has not happened, as some of the developers think that they have some God-given right to ride roughshod over one and all. Unfortunately, the Planning Authority has generally obliged, as it has rarely been on the side of the those bearing the brunt of the bulldozer culture that has to date reigned supreme in land-use planning issues.

We await the second draft of the Paceville Masterplan, in the hope that the Planning Authority will turn a new page and assume its rightful place in protecting the underdogs.     

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 November 2016