It’s a funny world we live in. All too often we hear that environment NGOs have gained too much power at Mepa through their media lobbying, then we are told by columnist Mark Anthony Falzon (June 17) that “the environmentalist lobby has largely settled into a comatose tokenism” or run out of steam. As always, the truth is somewhere in between, and I would not even have bothered to reply to the article if it were not to highlight the issues that were left out of Prof. Falzon’s article.
Further to Nicky Bianchi’s letter (June 24), I would like to say that in addition to the devaluation of rent law property which left owners with no option other than to sell to developers, there was another effect of the infamous rent laws.
Properties caught up in the rent laws from 1939 to around 2010 were not inherited by two to four direct descendants, but by eight or more grandchildren where the pro-conservation minority was invariably forced to sell by the majority. There are documented cases of properties being inherited by 72 and even 107 distant, third- or fourth-generation cousins. What hope is there of one cousin buying out the rest and leaving the property intact?
There are even vulture-like developers who network with nurses and undertakers to snap up such inheritance cases, often very old estates, to develop palazzos and their gardens into dense, shoe-box apartment complexes. Can we really say that the owners are to blame?
Dr Falzon has also overlooked the damaging role of the Mepa local plans in fuelling demolitions. By opening permits to build up to three and four storeys in the village core in 2003, the previous ‘Ministry of Environment’ not only pandered to speculators. This also led to ‘reluctant demolitions’ on the part of those who suddenly found themselves sandwiched in houses rendered dark and poky by the massive developments that engulfed them on either side.
Once their houses lost their light, air, value and privacy, with hordes of new neighbours looking directly into their bedroom windows and previously private gardens, did the owners really have a choice but to sell out? One look at what is going on in places like Swieqi and Attard which have lost all their former charm, shows that our authorities also have a lot to answer for, but as always, past sins go unaccounted for.