Paceville: pro­tect­ing the un­der­dogs

As the short time al­lot­ted for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the pro­posed first draft of the Paceville Master­plan ap­proaches its con­clu­sion, it is time for some com­mon­sense to pre­vail at the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity.

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

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

On TV, last Thurs­day, we heard the Au­thor­ity’s ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Jo­hann But­tigieg plot­ting the first steps of a U-turn on a num­ber of con­tentious is­sues con­tained in the draft. This Uturn is welcome, as it is clearly be­ing planned on the ba­sis of the re­ac­tions of the pub­lic and the en­vi­ron­men­tal NGOs to the pro­posed Paceville Master­plan.

The most se­ri­ous point at is­sue is the ex­tent to which the nine projects around which the Master­plan is wo­ven will en­gulf prop­er­ties be­long­ing to res­i­dents and small-scale busi­ness peo­ple. It will hope­fully now be clear, once and for all, that no one will be co­erced through threats of com­pul­sory pur­chase (veiled or oth­er­wise) to make way for any of the nine projects.

Mr But­tigieg de­clared that “no-one would be forced to sell”. While this dec­la­ra­tion is welcome, it is cer­tainly not suf­fi­cient. Ev­ery­one is aware that there are many ways through which pres­sure can be brought to bear on res­i­dents and busi­ness peo­ple. It is cer­tainly time for all the stake­hold­ers to be vig­i­lant and present a com­mon front. Be­ing con­stantly on the look-out may help iden­tify those trig­ger­ing in­ci­dents such as that of the car which was re­cently set ablaze in St Ge­orge’s Park at Paceville at the same time as res­i­dents were meet­ing else­where to dis­cuss their re­ac­tions to the pro­posed Paceville Master­plan.

The Plan­ning Au­thor­ity should be proac­tive. It should be at the fore­front when it comes to tak­ing ini­tia­tives that make sense. A case in point is the need to im­ple­ment the pub­lic do­main leg­is­la­tion re­cently en­acted by Par­lia­ment in or­der to bet­ter pro­tect both the coast­line and the fore­shore to a min­i­mum dis­tance of 15 me­tres from the shore­line.

It is well known that there is just one stretch of coast­line within the draft Paceville Master­plan bound­aries that is not in­ten­sively de­vel­oped: the Cresta Quay site, also re­ferred to as the Villa Rosa site 3. This site is cry­ing out for pro­tec­tion and it can be pro­tected, yet the draft Master­plan – ig­nor­ing pub­lic do­main leg­is­la­tion – ear­marks this site for a num­ber of high-rise blocks.

This pro­posal, in ad­di­tion to re­duc­ing the re­cently ap­proved pub­lic do­main leg­is­la­tion to hot air, runs counter to the draft Master­plan phi­los­o­phy of sit­ing high-rise de­vel­op­ments away from the coast. It seems that some­one may have been pres­sured into hav­ing sec­ond thoughts when the Master­plan was be­ing drafted. There is no other rea­son­able ex­pla­na­tion for this con­tra­dic­tion.

The pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion has re­vealed that the draft­ing of the Paceville Master­plan was flawed, as it ig­nored is­sues of fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance. How­ever, there is still time for the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity to align the Master­plan to the ex­pec­ta­tions of stake­hold­ers. The be­lated dec­la­ra­tion by Jo­hann But­tigieg that (af­ter all) he too has reser­va­tions on some as­pects of the Master­plan is a step in the right di­rec­tion. Hope­fully, this will be re­flected in an over­haul of the draft and in the pro­duc­tion of a new one that re­spects the stake­hold­ers who have in­vested in Paceville over the years.

The in­vestors pro­mot­ing the nine projects which the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity iden­ti­fied may con­tribute to the re­gen­er­a­tion of Paceville only if they tread care­fully in full re­spect of the res­i­dents and small-scale busi­ness peo­ple who have shaped the present-day Paceville, warts and all.

So far, this has not hap­pened, as some of the de­vel­op­ers think that they have some God-given right to ride roughshod over one and all. Un­for­tu­nately, the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity has gen­er­ally obliged, as it has rarely been on the side of those bear­ing the brunt of the bull­dozer cul­ture that has to date reigned supreme in land-use plan­ning is­sues.

We await the sec­ond draft of the Paceville Master­plan, in the hope that the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity will turn a new page and as­sume its right­ful place in pro­tect­ing the un­der­dogs.

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