Open letter to Parliament’s Environment and Development Planning Committee
With reference to the Committee meeting held on Wednesday 2 November during which the Paceville master plan was discussed, we would like to share some thoughts from the perspective of residents in the area. We have read the master plan from cover to cover. Our family have lived in the area for decades; the first members of our family started living in the area in 1956 and still reside here to this day.
We have never resorted to writing such kind of communication, however the situation that we find ourselves in warrants it.
We cannot deny that over the past years, development in Paceville has been sporadic and no efforts were made to ensure that development takes place within certain specifications and rules. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of buildings were commercial outlets have been allowed to operate in residential areas or areas very close to people’s homes. Therefore, the fact that a master plan has been drafted in itself is welcomed and a step in the right direction. What is also positive is the plan to upgrade the infrastructure that is so badly needed in the area, roads, sewage and water, etc. Foul smells emitted due to blocked drains are a common occurrence; just walk by Baystreet, usually in the morning. The present infrastructure cannot bear any further development without being upgraded.
We need to keep in mind that the area included in the master plan is a hub for all kinds of things such as commercial and tourism activities is also a residential area.
However, there are a number of concerns/issues which we would like to list in no particular order which are not exhaustive and must be addressed: •‘Paceville’ in the master plan includes vast areas of St Julian’s including St George’s Bay, Swieqi and Pembroke. These areas have never been considered or even included as part of Paceville. This area includes where we live. • The outreach to the general
public as well as to the residents in the area has only been through a slick, feel-good and strong marketing campaign. The Planning Authority did not accept to meet residents when local councils tried to organize meetings. This at least has been partly addressed through a meeting scheduled for 7 November. We question whether the scale of such a project only requires one meeting with the public; • The ambiguity in the plans, e.g. land reclamation is only mentioned once and not much information is provided. • The lack of understanding that the ramifications of this master plan which will not only affect Paceville and surrounding areas of Pembroke and Swieqi but also further afar, e.g. Madliena, Sliema, Gzira etc. • The fact that once this consultation period is over, a local plan will be designed. This will be presented as final and cannot be revoked; •The lack of a sustainable plan; •The master plan states that this will take five years to build, which is very ambitious indeed. As Maltese citizens, we are not blind (or deaf) to what goes on around us. The Pendergardens project has been going on for eight years and still has a long way to go; Mistra remains a ghost building; an unsightly vast hole is still present in Gzira, when this project was to start years ago; and Midi has not yet finalized the project of The Point or Manoel Island, etc. What will happen if construction starts and due to lack of funds this stops. What guarantees will be made to ensure that a master plan will be fully implemented and completed to the same standards and specifications of the original plans. •We are aware that following the Public Domain Act, the foreshore must be accessible to the public. This is something that the master plan seems to have forgotten; •For the master plan to be built, a number of private properties need to be expropriated. This is at best illegal. Land cannot be expropriated by the government and given to the private sector. • Where will €585 million come from? From taxpayers? Who will pay for the upgrading of the infrastructure? Should not the developers foot the bill? Yes, a master plan is needed for the area, but not this master plan. A master plan which looks at the area in a holistic way, which includes impact assessments on the environment, the social fabric of the area, infrastructure, geology etc. Finally, we need a master plan that has the Maltese people as well as the residents at heart and is not based on the developers needs only.
We thank you for taking the time to read our concerns. Only Parliament has the power to ensure that any development projects are planned with the citizen at their very core.
Anthony Gatt, on behalf of the Gatt Family Swieqi