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TO P.A.- Comments of Alternattiva Demokratika of the Draft North West Local Plan

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  • Mark Causon
    Alternattiva Demokratika The Green Party 149,Archbishop street, Valletta Comments of Alternattiva Demokratika of the Draft North West Local Plan A plan is
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2001
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      Alternattiva Demokratika
      The Green Party
      149,Archbishop street,
       Comments of Alternattiva Demokratika of the Draft North West Local Plan
      A plan is better than no plan. AD has consistently supported the Planning
       Authority since its establishment in 1992 The previous decades of
       discretionary power which kept the door wide open for corruption at all
       levels of the building permit process were to end. Despite our criticism on
       specific issues we have been consistent in defending it against popular
       criticism and against the tide of political populism. 
      Draft Local Plans which are an essential tool in the planning process are
       being proposed nearly a decade late. It has been a decade of
       disappointments for those who had high hopes that the Planning Authority
       would end the carving up of the country. Those who bore the outrage of
       illegal development in the hope of ultimate vindication of the community's
       rights have been appalled by the grant of permits in violation of the
       structure plan, by the inexorable extension of development areas, by
       development outside development zone by the periodic regurgitation of
       unsustainable development proposals such as golf courses and airfields.
       Outrage has given way to despair: we continue to lose 2Km2 of arable land
       per year. At the current rate, 10,000 years of agriculture in Malta and
       Gozo will end forever in the next few decades. 
      The greatest disappointment wrought in this last decade had been in the
       matter of public consultation. The ending of absolute ministerial power
       raised the hopes of third parties to be heard at last. Despite the
       establishment of a procedure for the lodging of objections and filing of
       third party appeals a pro-deveopment ethos has dominated the corridors of
       power within the PA. Consultation particularly on specific projects has
       been largely a sham epitomized by the PA stance whereby 13,000 residents of
       the Cottonera area were expected to to travel to Floriana each in the
       company of an architect engaged at their expense to inspect and memorise
       the voluminous documentation related to the project.
      Third parties threatened by development have nothing new to gain from the
       extraordinary expense of energy demanded of them to defend their rights and
       their peace of mind. They are pitted against highly motivated and
       professionally assisted developers playing at home in an institution that
       has done nothing to redress the balance. The concept of sustainable
       development in a country long past sustainability and where property
       speculation is virtually the only lucrative investment, remains a concept
       stated in documents but without concrete application.
      This is the Planning reality in Malta and Gozo. It is within this context
       that the North West Local Plan must be reviewed. 
      Whereas many of the proposals for new roads remove longstanding obstacles
       to traffic or provide a substitute route easing traffic pressure on urban
       centres, the plan is unambitious and proposes to accommodate a car culture
       which has given the country the unenviable world record in motor vehicles
       per sq km and world records in polllution-related health problems in a
       windswept island.  The provision of additional carparking space in St
       Paul's Bay is symptomatic. The unsustainable rate of increase in the number
       of private vehicles should have been confronted in the Local Plan not by
       providing additional facilites which will rapidly become insufficient but
       by facilitating park and ride schemes and redirecting traffic flows to
       public transport.. 
      Congestion has now reached rural roads across the country. Instead of
       addressing the problem the Planning Authority attempts the impossible and
       falls in line with the trend rather than seeking to change it. The NWLP
       assumes that we are condemned to face a decade of pollution bereft of a
       working public transport system  There seems to be no policy favouring
       alternative fuel vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians.
      Reference is made to the waste subject plan in preparation by the PA and as
       yet unavailable to the authors of the NWLP. The Integrated Solid Waste
       Strategty for Malta prepared for the Ministry of the Environment is still
       in draft form. While considerable progress has been made in the past months
       in comparison to previous years, the situation is not yet clear and the
       NWLP authors were ill-equipped to make proposals on this matter without the
       risk of prejudicing some part of the final strategy. A case in point is the
       proposal for the establishment of civic amenity centres. Well managed they
       could provide a valuable service. Ill managed they could seriously
       prejudice the working of any waste strategy and be a source of significant
       pollution. At this time and for the foreseeable future local councils lack
       the financial means and the technical capacity to manage such facilities in
       an acceptable manner. In some cases local councils have operated and
       continue to operate illegal and uncontrolled dump sites with no separation
       of waste and therefore no possibility of recycling. The lack of proper
       management entails the frequent spontaneous combustion of the material at
       these sites. In the case of Mgarr the Civil Protection Fire Brigade has
       refused to put out fires which rage for days because the site in question
       is illegal regardless of the fumes from plastic wastes causing a health
       hazard in the area. The scandalous justification for PACs repeated in the
       NWLP is that flytipping is reduced thereby. Flytipping is to be reduced by
       strict enforcement of existing laws and not by facilitating offenders at
       the expense of the community. It is the logic of a policeman who proposes
       that we place our valuables on our doorsteps to prevent burglary.
      The NWLP also appears to have been deprived of the possibility of
       coordination with the authors of the Mineral Subject Plan and the Master
       Sewage Plan each of which will have a major impact in the plan area because
       of the presence of quarrying in the area and the likelihood of major sewage
       treatment works being also located in the plan area. The impact of
       decisions in these areas will necessitate a revision of the NWLP long
       before the expiration of its nominal life span.
      The height relaxation policy made in 1993 has been accepted as a given in
       the NWLP and is applied to many plan area settlements without any attempt
       at justification by reference to demographic studies. All indications are
       of an oversupply of housing and a constant erosion of arable land at 2sq km
       per year. Height relaxation in Burmarrad, St Paul's Bay, Mgarr and Dingli
       exposes village cores to a perpetuation of the redevelopment of presently
       stabilsed sites, the creation of futher C&D waste through demolition and an
       extension of the prepetual building site syndrome where redeveloped
       properties tower over their not yet redeveloped for years disturbing the
       streetscape and skyline
      Infilling of vacant lots within development areas is to be encouraged but
       exposing established developments to redevelopment is contrary to the
       desperate need of the country to suppress the unnecessary creation of C&D
      The implementation of a floor area ratio policy in the Qawra seafront
       appears to be tailormade for a specific development in which case only the
       skyline anomaly and the traffic/services impact causes concern. However
       policies of their nature are general and the application of the policy to
       any given area exposes existing development to site accretion pressures and
       once more the threat of redevelopment looms large. Viewed in this light the
       NWLP appears to favour a perpetuation of the country's eternal building
       boom regardless of the fully documented negative consequences it has
       produced so far and the general conviction that it is already far beyond
       economic and environmental sustainability.
      The designation of the Qawra/Bugibba Entertainment Zone is too extensive
       and assumes that both local and visitor presence will continue to increase
       and concentrate in this area. The question of establishing a limit to
       visitor presence remains a taboo and the matter of shifting towards small
       numbers of better quality seems to escape the NWLP planners who envisage a
       more-of-what-made-us-rich policy in tourism regardless of the clear signs
       of its impending failure, of the many contrary statements made by the Malta
       Tourism Authority and regardless of the cost to Qawra Bugibba residents by
       being further exposed to the fate imposed on Paceville residents.
      The political weakness displayed in facing up to the building lobby and the
       shortsighted members of the tourism sector is repeated in confronting the
       outrageous boathousing culture. The lack of law enforcement over many
       decades has produced the anomaly whereby planners seek to accommodate a
       vociferous lobby without a shred of moral or legal justification for their
       demands. The NWLP proposes coastal development of boathouse communities
       instead of giving some backbone to our supine political class. It is now
       proposed to legalise a decades-long illegality instead of making a clear
       statement in defence of the vast majority of the population who are pleased
       to enjoy the countryside and the beaches without attempting to appropriate
       them to themselves. In effect the NWLP expropriates the land to be assigned
       to the boathouse culture from all other citizens.
      It is typical of the NWLP to seek to accommodate popular or lobby demand
       rather than to identify needs and plan to satisfy them. It is the ethos of
       the present Planning Authority which entertains applications for golf
       courses for years on end regardless of their clear unsustainability and
       patent violation of The Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands, which
       issues permits for developments cogently refused by the Planning
       Directorate. It is the intended function of the Planning Authority to plan
       for a sustainable land use and not to produce political compromises to
       shield the government from difficult decisionmaking. A local plan should
       provide a tool for the restraint of improper land use and not otherwise.
      In many ways the NWLP is a disappointment yet this should not deter us from
       showing our appreciation towards those who produced it since the bulk of
       their efforts have produced a useful tool which may be used to direct
       development in a rational manner. Our experience in the last decade has
       been that the best plans can be wrecked by those determined to upset them.
       More than plans we need people willing to implement them fairly, clearly
       and well.
       Dr Harry Vassallo
      Alternattiva Demokratika
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