Projects first, planning later... if at all
As public anger mounts over the uncontrolled and haphazard building development taking place at frenetic speed practically all over the island, disfiguring urban cores and blotting out iconic skylines, the developers’ chief, Sandro Chetcuti, has belatedly come out confirming the sad state the country has found itself in due to lack of planning.
No one was taken by surprise when he blurted out at the annual general meeting of the Malta Developers’ Association that the country had failed to get to grips with planning over the years. Indeed, the results of this are there for all to see, except perhaps for those who are so driven by the urge to make a quick profit that they are closing both eyes to the damage being done to the country.
Calls for forward planning made by both Mr Chetcuti and the Opposition and Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia were not well received by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who, while arguing that planning was crucial, said he could not agree with an approach that attempted to predict the needs of the country 25 years from now. He prefers an approach that, he said, is flexible enough to respond to an ever-changing scenario.
With the head of government holding such a warped view of what is so badly needed and with the Planning Authority appearing to forfeit its planning role, it is no wonder Malta is in such a huge mess. The country is today facing a most incongruous and absurd situation where projects come first and planning later, if at all. Surely, this is not what the Prime Minister had in mind when he spoke of his preference for a flexible approach.
Mega complexes are to be built in St George’s and St Julian’s when there is not even a master plan for the area yet. Is it not preposterous, for example, that even though the db Group project at St George’s Bay was approved by the Planning Authority last September, the transport authority has yet to confirm that the existing road network can cater for the additional traffic that the project will generate?
There has been great resistance to this project, with no fewer than 4,500 objections from the public having been made.
An appeal was filed last November by 17 entities, including three local councils – those of Swieqi, Pembroke and St Julian’s.
Yet, there would seem to be no way stopping the group from going ahead with their plans.
If the db Group project is expected to have such an adverse impact on the communities living in the three areas, residents there and in Pembroke must be dreading to forecast what the situation will be like when the Corinthia, Villa Rosa and Mercury House projects are completed.
Does responding to an ever-changing scenario mean adopting a piecemeal approach to development, as ishappening today?
When is the country going to wake up to the urgency of seeing where exactly it wants to go in terms of planning and development?
Mr Chetcuti was right when he argued the country could not afford to have all of Malta looking like Buġibba and Qawra. No one would want to see this happening but that is exactly where Malta is heading unless action is taken now to stop the rot.
This is a Times of Malta print editorial