It would be pertinent to remember that on 26 July 2006 Malta’s Parliament approved a resolution which we normally refer to as the “rationalization” exercise, as a result of which extensive stretches of land until then outside the development zone (ODZ) were declared as land suitable for development.
The PN parliamentary group supported the Lawrence Gonzi-led government and voted in favor of developing ODZ land while ironically the Labor Opposition had then voted against the proposal. This is not just history. It is still affecting our daily lives. Today, 16 years later some are realizing for the first time how land use planning was screwed by the then Environment Minister George Pullicino!
Three of the Members of Parliament who had then voted in favor of developing ODZ land are still MPs today.
Their names come to mind when considering the latest mega-development proposal, this time at iż-qonqor on the outskirts of Marsascala, through development application PA00777 / 22. The development application this time concerns a 5,000 sq.m. area of rural land over which it is proposed to construct 135 residential units and 180 basement garages. These will be spread over 10 different levels, four of them below ground floor level after excavating a substantial amount of rock.
The basic decision permitting today’s proposed development was taken on 26 July 2006 when the rationalization exercise was approved by Parliament on the proposal of a PN-led government. No studies were then carried out as to the environmental impacts of the development resulting from the rationalization exercise. Specifically, the cumulative impact of the development proposal proposed was ignored contrary to the then emerging environmental acquis of the EU relative to the assessment of plans and programs, known as the SEA Directive (Strategic Environment Assessment Directive) which Directive entered into force on the days immediately following the approval by the Maltese Parliament of the rationalization exercise.
The basic question to ask is whether we really need such large-scale developments. Why are we determined as a country to develop every square centimeter of our land? Isn’t it about time that a moratorium on such large-scale development enters into force?
The rationalization exercise should be scrapped at the earliest and all rationalized land returned to its former ODZ status the soonest. This is what we should expect from any government which (unashamedly) proclaims that the environment and our quality of life is now its priority.
It has taken our residents 16 years to become sensitized to the large-scale havoc which land use planning has degenerated to. Throughout these 16 years all genuine environmentalists have been pointing this out. Unfortunately, some only react when large scale development is very close to their backyard, otherwise they do not care. The writing has been on the wall for a number of years, yet it has been ignored for quite some time.
One mega-project after the other has been eroding our quality of life, the latest one being proposal PA00777 / 22 which goes by this description: To excavate and construct 180 garages at basement level, 2 Class 4B shops and 135 overlying units. The site is at iż-Zonqor, Marsascala, but it should be everyone’s concern.
It is about time that we stop all this in the same way that the proposed Marina at Marsascala had to be shelfed; hopefully for good!
Carmel Cacopardo is chairperson of AD + PD – The Green Party in Malta