The uglification of Malta… the sequel

The uglification of Malta… the sequel



Or was it ‘the cementification of Malta’? I must admit I’m stealing the title off an opinion piece written by Martin Scicluna some 10 years ago. Sadly, our obsession with building every single vacant space on the island is even more prevalent today.

Nobody could have summed it better than Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti in The Sunday Times of Malta last weekend.

When confronted with the ridiculous proposal to build three hotels outside development zone in the south east of the island, Chetcuti replied: “it’s a shabby and unused area where development would be of benefit.”

In other words, if any piece of land ain’t being used, build it. It’s as simple as that. We can’t come up with a proposal to create a nature park, plant hundreds of trees, or guess what... do nothing, and let people enjoy the coast!

It’s symptomatic of a selfish society fuelled by a political class that for too long has been hell-bent on placating the construction lobby.

It’s even sadder to think this brief forms part for the “regeneration of the south” prepared by the government privatisation unit on the request of the chairman of the Consultative Council for the South, Labour MP Silvio Parnis, who also backs the project.

Governments continue encouraging construction on the mistaken belief it will lead to economic growth. The cost to the environment, tourism, and most importantly to health is never taken into consideration.

What is certain is there are long-term consequences on the environment and our quality of life. We are seemingly unable to roll back the uglification process and there are worrying indications that different areas (towns/villages?) will soon start looking like that monument to cement – Tigné Point.

It’s no longer about Sliema, Buġibba and St Julian’s teeming with the grossest apartment blocks, devoid of architectural merit, soulless monuments to greed and speculation. Each area, from Gozo to Marsascala is now under threat of succumbing to the jackhammer of rampant construction.

While the Nationalist government has a lot to answer for with the unbridled construction it sanctioned the 1990s, and the unforgivable decision to extend development zones in 2006, at least we had started seeing a turnaround in the last Gonzi administration.

But then came the Muscat government, and with it, a carte blanche to the construction sector.

The government is changing planning laws to placate anybody who wants to build, without any consideration to the appeals of the majority who are saying they’ve had enough. Tower blocks will be rising out of the most densely built EU state, and (possibly) coming soon, land reclamation!

While we have restored beautifully some architectural gems in the last decade, what will be the legacy our talented young architects? Do we realise that the only architectural gem built by our generation is probably (the much-criticised) Renzo Piano’s City Gate project?  

We still think that tall modern buildings (read: fletsijiet) symbolise progress. As columnist Mark Anthony Falzon aptly put it: the south needs hotels like the north needs a dockyard or a power station.

Civil society needs to wake up and protest loudly against the rape of the environment, but sadly we are reluctant to do so unless our back garden is being cemented.

NGOs are strong in numbers but remain fragmented. They need to unite into a major pressure group. Meanwhile, our Environment Minister remains conspicuous by his absence.

I would love the government to prove me wrong by declaring that this hotels idea was a silly idea in the first place. I would love to hear the government declare it would no longer remain hostage to the construction lobby. During Monday’s Budget speech, this government has the perfect opportunity to introduce drastic measures to encourage the use of the estimated 70,000 vacant properties. I can bet anything it won’t happen – and the uglification of Malta will persist... in the name of greed.  

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus