Paceville mas­ter plan turns into heated ar­gu­ments be­tween gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

The Paceville mas­ter plan de­bate in the En­vi­ron­ment and Plan­ning De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee in Par­lia­ment saw heated ar­gu­ments be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the Op­po­si­tion, with PN MP Marthese Portelli say­ing the gov­ern­ment will be ex­pro­pri­at­ing pri­vate land yet at the same time will have de­vel­op­ers build­ing on pub­lic land.

MP Portelli asked if ac­cu­rate maps by the Lands Depart­ment rep­re­sent­ing what is pub­lic and pri­vate land have been sub­mit­ted, as well as whether a list of gov­ern­ment prop­erty and pri­vate prop­erty. “This ex­er­cise was meant to oc­cur be­tween the Lands Depart­ment and the Plan­ning Author­ity.”

Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary Deb­o­rah Schem­bri said that Lands Com­mis­sioner Peter Mamo told her this in­for­ma­tion was al­ready passed to the com­mit­tee.

Marthese Portelli said she al­ready high­lighted that the map is not cor­rect, say­ing some land is pub­lic when it is in fact pri­vate. “The Lands Depart­ment gave wrong in­for­ma­tion,” she said.

Dr Schem­bri said that Peter Mamo told her that the plans are small and thus there could be over­lap­ping, and for what Dr Portelli wants, a sur­vey that takes a lot of time would need to be con­ducted. “He said that all the GPD could pass over, given their re­sources, has al­ready been passed onto this Com­mit­tee.”

Dr Portelli said: “So we are say­ing the GPD can’t do it, and nei­ther do they have the funds for it, yet the gov­ern­ment has funds for a €300,000 pay­ment to Mott Mac­don­ald. If the Lands Depart­ment is not ready to do it, then who will? We are either here to help peo­ple, or lump many doc­u­ments and shut peo­ple up.”

Dr Schem­bri said that at the end of the day “we must do things that are pos­si­ble.” She said that the mas­ter plan is not about look­ing at who owns what, but it’s rather about a con­cept.

Dr Portelli stressed the im­por­tance of a list show­ing what is pri­vate and pub­lic land, as the plan in­di­cated there will be a lot of pri­vate land that will be taken for open spa­ces.

Dr Portelli stressed that the mas­ter plan must go back to the draw­ing board. She said that through the plan, the gov­ern­ment would need to pay for ex­pro­pri­ated land. “It will take up a large amount of pri­vate prop­erty to make open space, yet at the same time there is pub­lic prop­erty be­ing given to the pri­vate sec­tor. So the gov­ern­ment is pay­ing pri­vate cit­i­zens for land, yet throw­ing away land giv­ing it to pri­vate de­vel­op­ers. I asked for this list in or­der to see this more clearly.”

Ar­gu­ments over the ques­tions posed

Both sides agreed that there is need for a holis­tic plan with­out any con­flict of in­ter­est favour­ing one de­vel­oper over an­other, one res­i­dent over an­other, etc.

Asked whether the Com­mit­tee agreed that the in­fra­struc­ture needs to be im­proved, both sides agreed, but Dr Portelli added that the same must be done to the sur­round­ing lo­cal­i­ties, and PL MP Charles Buha­giar ar­gued that the in­fra­struc­ture projects must be done prior to de­vel­op­ment oc­cur­ring.

Asked whether the com­mit­tee agrees in prin­ci­ple that tall build­ings can be built in the area while free­ing up open space, the com­mit­tee hear­ing quickly de­te­ri­o­rated into a heated ar­gu­ment. The PL mem­bers agreed, but PN MP Ryan Cal­lus said that th­ese ques­tions should have been sent to Com­mit­tee mem­bers be­fore­hand. “I don’t think th­ese ques­tions should be im­posed on us as though we are hav­ing an exam, like a show. This is not how ma­ture pol­i­tics is done. I ex­pected that th­ese ques­tions be given to us be­fore­hand, not handed to us here and now.”

Chair­man Mer­cieca said that th­ese are sim­ple ques­tions. “Do you agree with tall build­ings or not?”

PN MP Cal­lus said that his prob­lem is not with the sub­stance of the ques­tions, but with the way things have been done. “Ev­ery­one knows this mas­ter plan is a dis­as­ter from start to fin­ish. We are ready to find a com­mon po­si­tion, but this is not how things are done.”

Dr Portelli said that if the PN does not agree with tall build­ings, the gov­ern­ment will come out say­ing the PN does not agree. “If the PN says yes, when the new mas­ter plan comes out, and if we have ob­jec­tions to some of those tall build­ings, the gov­ern­ment will say we are con­tra­dict­ing each other. This is the cru­cial point. The cru­cial ques­tion was whether we agree with the con­cept of a mas­ter plan, and yes we do, with con­di­tions. You can’t ask me about tall build­ings as it de­pends which one, who would pay for the open space, etc.”

Asked whether there are any sites which are not ideal for tall build­ings, Dr Portelli quoted from the Cham­ber of Ar­chi­tects, that the quan­tity of de­vel­op­ment pro­posed is ac­com­mo­dated with­out any analysis. PN MP Ryan Cal­lus said this an­swer can be found, in black and white, in the ob­jec­tions put for­ward by the peo­ple.

Par­lia­men­tary Deb­o­rah Schem­bri said that the gov­ern­ment will lis­ten to the peo­ple and read their com­plaints. She said she will take de­ci­sions that are needed af­ter hear­ing and read­ing all that the pub­lic is say­ing.

Dr Schem­bri ar­gued that the Op­po­si­tion was not giv­ing a re­sponse, but time and time again, PN MPs said that the plan needs to go back to the draw­ing board, and a more holis­tic plan that does not pre­fer one de­vel­oper over an­other, one res­i­dent over an­other, be drafted.

Chair­man Mer­cieca then said: “To be clear, you agree with all of them but Mer­cury Tower,” to which all the PN MPs ob­jected ar­gu­ing that this is not what they said.

Dr Portelli ar­gued: “If we want a holis­tic plan, then we should not choose one site or an­other, but all of Paceville.” She stressed that this is a plan of tall build­ings not a holis­tic plan. “This is even shown in the ques­tions you are ask­ing us, which re­gard tall build­ings.”

Dr Schem­bri ar­gued that it is a holis­tic plan.

Dr Portelli then asked how the Floor Area Ra­tio worked, given that it ben­e­fited Mer­cury House. She said that all de­vel­op­ers must be treated justly when it comes to this ra­tion, and al­leged that there is no level play­ing-field in the cur­rent plan.

Both sides agreed that there should be open spa­ces in Paceville, but PN Portelli said that the Mott Mac­Don­ald plan takes away land from pri­vate busi­nesses for such space and does not take the small busi­nesses into con­sid­er­a­tion.

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