PA trans­fers €7 mil­lion ear­marked for 6 lo­cal­i­ties and in­tends to use them for univer­sity car park

● PA says project will ben­e­fit the lo­cal­i­ties

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DIRTY OIL - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

The Plan­ning Author­ity has de­cided to trans­fer €7 mil­lion which were ear­marked for pos­si­ble fu­ture projects in six lo­cal­i­ties, and placed them in a re­serve fund which could be used for univer­sity park­ing fa­cil­i­ties, with some may­ors not fully aware of what was go­ing on when con­tacted.

The €7 mil­lion was taken out of the De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning Fund for six lo­cal­i­ties. Should Coun­cils, prior to 31 De­cem­ber 2018, present pro­posed projects to make use of the funds, they can still make use of the al­lo­cated money that has been com­mit­ted to the re­serve fund.

“The De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning fund pro­motes im­prove­ment and em­bel­lish­ment work in ur­ban ar­eas, such as land­scap­ing, traf­fic man­age­ment and other ur­ban projects which are con­sid­ered ben­e­fi­cial

to the wider com­mu­nity,” the PA web­site reads. “The fund is made avail­able to all lo­cal coun­cils, gov­ern­ment agen­cies, NGOs or pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als but the pro­pos­als would need to be sub­mit­ted through the re­spec­tive lo­cal coun­cils where the ini­tia­tives are in­tended to be im­ple­mented.” While the lo­cal coun­cils sub­mit the pro­pos­als, the fund is ad­min­is­tered by the PA Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil.

The fund for each lo­cal­ity is mainly fi­nanced through manda­tory con­tri­bu­tions by de­vel­op­ers for in­con­ve­nience caused, such as when not pro­vid­ing enough park­ing spa­ces in their de­vel­op­ment and a plan­ning gain is im­posed.

This news­room had filed a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest for the amount held in the fund by each lo­cal­ity in Malta in Jan­uary 2018 and in July 2018, which showed a drop in funds held by a num­ber of lo­cal­i­ties. Sources ex­plained that the drop in some of the lo­cal­i­ties was due to this par­tic­u­lar si­t­u­a­tion.

Sources said that, as at July, both Sliema and St Ju­lian’s had €2 mil­lion of their De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning funds trans­ferred into this re­serve fund. Gzira had around €1.2 mil­lion, Msida around €850,000, San Gwann around €815,000 and Ta Xbiex €140,000 trans­ferred, the sources ex­plained.

The PA, in replies to ques­tions sent by this news­room re­ceived yesterday af­ter­noon, said that the main chal­lenges of ar­eas in the cen­tral part of Malta are most def­i­nitely traf­fic con­ges­tion and park­ing is­sues. “In fact, lo­cal coun­cils in these ar­eas con­tin­u­ally raise these two is­sues as the big­gest prob­lems for their lo­cal­ity. Over re­cent years, no lo­cal coun­cil has been forth­com­ing with pro­pos­als for projects that can ad­dress these chal­lenges, both in­di­vid­u­ally and as a re­gion.”

“Re­cently, the Author­ity’s Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil dis­cussed a pro­posal to cre­ate a Univer­sity Park re­serve fund for the fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of a size­able car park within the site of the Univer­sity sports fa­cil­i­ties. Given that a num­ber of lo­cal­i­ties may be af­fected by this pro­posal, the Ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil iden­ti­fied the lo­cal­i­ties of Sliema, Gzira, St Ju­lian’s, Msida, Ta’ Xbiex and San Gwann from where ex­ist­ing funds will be trans­ferred to the re­serve. Given that lo­cal coun­cils may have long term projects for their lo­cal­ity, the Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil also de­cided that should a lo­cal coun­cil prior to 31st De­cem­ber 2018 present pro­posed projects, they can still make use of the al­lo­cated money that has been com­mit­ted to the re­serve,” the PA said.

This news­room con­tacted a num­ber of the may­ors whose area would be af­fected.

St Ju­lian’s Mayor Guido Dalli con­firmed that a De­cem­ber dead­line was given. By this time, he said, those coun­cils who had a por­tion of their funds from this fund moved have to present ev­i­dence that they plan to use them for a ma­jor project and if not they will be lost to that coun­cil.

Dalli said that the St Ju­lian’s coun­cil was go­ing to spend the PA funds on road works. Three roads are com­plete and three more roads have been con­tracted to start in two weeks’ time. Quo­ta­tions were given for an­other 10 roads, but due to the cre­ation of In­fra­struc­ture Malta, this re­quest will in most prob­a­bil­ity be re­fused, he said. As such, the coun­cil is mak­ing plans for a Spinola Square project – the sur­vey has been com­pleted – and to help with the San Gil­jan and Nep­tunes wa­ter­polo pitches. The coun­cil sent an email to the PA to ask if it is per­mis­si­ble to help them and are wait­ing for an an­swer. If re­fused, the coun­cil will need to make other plans in order not to lose the funds, he said.

He said that he wants a guar­an­tee that, if the coun­cil presents some form of ev­i­dence, like a signed state­ment by an ar­chi­tect, of the projects the coun­cil in­tends to un­der­take, that the funds would be re­turned to the coun­cil.

He also ex­pressed some con­cern that this could cre­ate a prece­dent, but high­lighted that some lo­cal­i­ties would strug­gle to spend the amount of funds they have in the De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning fund, ar­gu­ing that it could only be used for cer­tain things like ma­jor projects. He said it might be a good idea, given that this fund is there to help im­prove the lo­cal­ity as well, fur­ther ex­pand the pos­si­ble uses of the fund.

What was con­tracted for the road­works, three are be­ing done and work on three will start in a few weeks’ time.

This news­room also con­tacted Sliema Mayor An­thony Chir­cop, who said that this fund was in­tended to help com­pen­sate ar­eas with heavy de­vel­op­ment. These funds would then be used to im­prove the lo­cal­ity. He said that the idea be­hind the fund was to help build gar­dens, park­ing ar­eas and other such projects.

Chir­cop ex­plained that Sliema al­ready has a num­ber of projects that would qual­ify for fi­nanc­ing through this fund. “For us to use the funds al­lo­cated to Sliema, any project needs ap­proval from the Plan­ning Author­ity and if the project in­volves pub­lic land, one has to ap­ply for the de­vo­lu­tion of that land to coun­cil, be­fore sub­mit­ting your ap­pli­ca­tion to use the fund. We had a num­ber of such projects, one of which was a big un­der­ground car park, but since they are still in the ap­pli­ca­tion and con­sid­er­a­tion phases, and thus could not ap­ply for this piece of land to be de­volved to us, we could not put in our re­quest for fund­ing. It does not mean to say that the funds were there and we are ig­nor­ing them. It’s just a si­t­u­a­tion where you have to have plan­ning ap­proval and other bu­reau­cratic ob­sta­cles.”

He said that Sliema still has a num­ber of projects for which they want to re­quest fund­ing. He ques­tioned how funds could just be ap­pro­pri­ated like this by the PA. It is per­ti­nent to note that in such projects that utilise this fund’s fi­nanc­ing, the coun­cils would have to pay for the project them­selves and re­im­bursed from the fund, he added. He stressed that the con­di­tions re­gard­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for fund­ing were changed re­cently and ex­plained that coun­cils can­not re­cu­per­ate the full amount for projects from this fund anymore, stat­ing that coun­cils need to pay a por­tion of the fi­nal ex­penses from their own in­ter­nal funds. They would also need to show ev­i­dence that the coun­cil can pro­vide this por­tion of funds prior to the start of a project, he said.

Sliema lo­cal coun­cil­lor Michael Briguglio, who also teaches at Univer­sity said that lo­cal coun­cils should be kept fully in­formed about the funds held at the PA, and that they should be given all the in­for­ma­tion in terms of funds moved be­tween ac­counts in­volv­ing lo­cal­i­ties. He said that he can­not see how the car park would help Sliema, and that funds should be spent lo­cally if gen­er­ated lo­cally. “Every lo­cal coun­cil should de­cide for it­self how these funds are to be spent for ur­ban im­prove­ments.”

Msida Mayor Margaret Bal­dacchino Ce­fai was not aware of the funds be­ing moved into a univer­sity car park re­serve fund, and is check­ing to see what is go­ing on.

Gzira Mayor Con­rad Borg Manche is look­ing into the si­t­u­a­tion. He said he has com­mit­ments in terms of projects as well. He said that it does make a bit of sense as it does not make sense to have €2 mil­lion ly­ing around when things can be done. He said that he had heard some­thing about the si­t­u­a­tion, and asked the coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary to ask about it. The sec­re­tary told him that the funds will prob­a­bly go back to the coun­cil since they had com­mit­ments. How­ever, the mayor was sur­prised when this news­room read out the amount in the Gzira fund from the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest.

This news­room man­aged to con­tact PA Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man Jo­hann But­tigieg yesterday, and asked him how this car park would af­fect the var­i­ous ar­eas. He said that the car park will af­fect them di­rectly.

“The idea is to have that car park, to­gether with oth­ers, linked to­gether to serve as a park and ride sys­tem for the whole area be­tween Paceville, St Ju­lian’s, Sliema, Msida, Gzira, Flo­ri­ana and so on.”

He ex­plained that there will be a park and ride sys­tem be­tween a num­ber of car parks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.