Claim­ing back our coast

The Paceville Master Plan is right­fully sub­ti­tled: Malta’s prime coastal lo­ca­tion. How­ever, it con­sid­ers the coast as a money-spin­ner and completely ig­nores Par­lia­ment’s de­ci­sion ear­lier this year to cod­ify the im­por­tance of the coastal area through its i

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

An ar­chi­tect and civil en­gi­neer, the au­thor is deputy chair­man of Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta. ca­co­par­do­carm@gmail.com, www.carmel­ca­co­pardo.word­press.com

The Master Plan is­sued for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on 26 Septem­ber was the first op­por­tu­nity for the Plan­ning Author­ity, on be­half of the gov­ern­ment – which in­structs it on pol­icy ini­tia­tives, to flesh out the bones of the dec­la­ra­tions made in the pub­lic do­main leg­is­la­tion, ap­proved by Par­lia­ment in May. That it did not do so casts con­sid­er­able doubt as to whether the unan­i­mous ap­proval by Par­lia­ment of the pub­lic do­main leg­is­la­tion is an­other po­lit­i­cal gim­mick.

The Paceville Master Plan cov­ers a large tract of land bor­der­ing Pem­broke to the north, Swieqi to the west, St Ju­lian’s to the South and coastal wa­ters to the east. The Paceville coast­line is ex­ten­sive: it adds up to any­thing be­tween three and four kilo­me­tres, de­pend­ing on the man­ner of mea­sure­ment.

We have been told that the Paceville coast­line will be ac­ces­si­ble through a pas­sage­way that will be cre­ated along the coast. As a mat­ter of fact, most of the Paceville coast­line is al­ready dot­ted with com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment on land which is either pub­lic prop­erty or else is sub­ject to servi­tudes in favour of the state. Dur­ing last Wed­nes­day’s sit­ting of Par­lia­ment’s En­vi­ron­ment and De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning Com­mit­tee, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Gov­ern­ment Prop­erty De­part­ment pre­sented a draw­ing in­di­cat­ing all this prop­erty along the Paceville coast­line. In a num­ber of in­stances, the draw­ing sub­mit­ted in­di­cated pas­sage­ways of a width varying be­tween four and five me­tres along the coast which are ob­vi­ously in­tended for pub­lic ac­cess, even though it is not al­ways clear how one would be able to find their points of en­try and exit.

Par­lia­ment’s ap­proval of amend­ments to the Civil Code ap­proved in May lays ro­bust legal foun­da­tions for the pro­tec­tion of the coast. The gov­ern­ment has been en­trusted with pro­tect­ing the coast on be­half of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, hence it be­longs to all of us, in trust on be­half of those fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. The coastal perime­ter ex­tends to a min­i­mum of 15 me­tres from the shore­line. To this, the newly-ap­proved leg­is­la­tion adds the fore­shore, which ex­tends as far as the reach of the largest wave – a reach that can be sub­stan­tial in those parts of the coast­line that are ex­posed to the open sea.

Large sec­tions of the Paceville coast­line are de­vel­oped, but there are still small pockets which are either not de­vel­oped or else con­tain de­vel­op­ment that is not in­ten­sive. A proac­tive Master Plan would have iden­ti­fied this as an op­por­tu­nity for plot­ting the way for­ward in im­ple­ment­ing a pro­gramme for the pro­tec­tion of the Paceville coast. Un­for­tu­nately, it seems that the con­sul­tants to the Plan­ning Author­ity were not briefed on the mat­ter and as a con­se­quence there is a real dan­ger that this op­por­tu­nity will be lost.

Af­ter the cur­rent pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion is con­cluded, the Plan­ning Author­ity will have to ex­am­ine the com­ments made and con­sider the ex­tent to which such com­ments can and should be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion in the sec­ond draft of the Master Plan.

The Author­ity should take on board the pub­lic do­main leg­is­la­tion in re­spect of the coast and plan for its im­ple­men­ta­tion when it re­vises the first draft of the Paceville Master Plan. In the short term, this should be done in re­la­tion to those ar­eas that are still un­de­vel­oped or un­der­de­vel­oped. I would also ex­pect the Plan­ning Author­ity to plan for the longer term in re­spect of those sec­tions of the coast­line that are al­ready in­ten­sively de­vel­oped.

This leaves one other ba­sic is­sue: land recla­ma­tion. I feel that, on a pol­icy level, Labour’s land recla­ma­tion pol­icy is the ma­rine equiv­a­lent of the Na­tion­al­ist’s widely crit­i­cised 2006 ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion ex­er­cise through which the bound­aries of de­vel­op­ment were ir­re­spon­si­bly ex­tended. Labour will be ex­tend­ing the lim­its to de­vel­op­ment out­wards to­wards the sea, whilst the Na­tion­al­ist-led gov­ern­ment ex­tended the said lim­its to­wards the coun­try­side.

The pro­posed Master Plan for Paceville rec­om­mends land recla­ma­tion off the Drag­o­nara/Por­tomaso coast­line. This is an ill-thought pro­posal, as the area iden­ti­fied for land recla­ma­tion will be an ex­ten­sion of pos­si­bly the most in­ten­sively de­vel­oped part of the Paceville coast. This pro­posal should un­doubt­edly be re­vis­ited as com­mon­sense sug­gests that rather than in­creas­ing de­vel­op­ment in the area it should, in the long term, be cur­tailed.

The pro­posed Paceville Master Plan should be used as a plan­ning tool for ad­e­quate coastal man­age­ment. It can, at this point in time, also be the op­ti­mum ve­hi­cle for trans­lat­ing the pub­lic do­main leg­is­la­tion into prac­ti­cal poli­cies through which we can start the process of re­claim­ing the coast for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

This is an op­por­tu­nity which should not be missed.

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