The Malta Independent 15 August 2018, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: High rise everywhere - A national master plan is needed

Wednesday, 7 February 2018, 09:54 Last update: about 7 months ago

A minister’s reply to a Parliamentary Question on tall buildings was enough to give an environmentalist a heart attack.

Ian Borg told Parliament that there are no less than 22 pending applications for the construction of buildings higher than ten floors.

Worse still, the applications for these medium to high rise buildings affect several localities, with tower blocks proposed in places such as Qormi and St Paul’s Bay. A 17-storey hotel is being proposed for the latter.

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Up until now, with the exception of the controversial Mriehel towers, high rise planning seemed to be contained in the St Julian’s, Sliema and Gzira area. But it seems that many other localities could soon end up in the shadow of tall buildings.

Controversy erupted a few days ago when the Planning Authority approved the 31-storey Mercury Tower at despite the fact that the Paceville Master Plan, which specifically deals with the high rise concept, has not been completed.

It is pertinent to point out that nine out of 22 pending applications are for planned tall buildings in St Julian’s. But the issue goes beyond St Julian’s now that developers want to build similar structures in other localities.

Malta is truly entering the high rise era and there needs to be a master plan for the entire country, not just Paceville.

Flawed planning policies have, over the years allowed for the total defacement of this country’s urban landscape, where apartment blocks of three, four and five floors have been allowed on streets that had been dominated solely by two-floor terraced houses. There is no sense of uniformity and many localities look shabby, with higher-than-usual buildings sticking out like sore thumbs.

Now we have arrived at a junction where developers are proposing much higher structures, and the implications could be disastrous.

We believe that, at least for the coming decades, no high rise development should be allowed outside the harbour area.

Serious policies should be drawn up, based on serious studies that tackle important issues such as whether a demand for so many housing units exists. Without being too draconian, a country with such limited space as ours at some point has to declare that unneeded development will not be permitted. We should also develop new green spaces to counterbalance the heavy construction.

 

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Vote16

Parliament’s approval of a law that will allow thousands of sixteen year-olds to vote in the 2022 general election (unless it is held early after some new bombshell claims) was heralded as a very positive step forward, with politicians telling us that Malta is only the second country in the EU to do so (the other being Austria).

Parliamentarians said 16-year-olds are fully capable of taking part in the country’s democratic process and choosing its leaders.

But we have to ask: could it be that politicians are living in a bubble where most of the youths they brush shoulders with are Pulse/SDM types who are very much in sync with the happenings of the political world but are, nonetheless, not representative of their generation at large?

A recent vox pop conducted by this newspaper near the Junior College, a day after Parliament approved the Vote 16 bill in its second reading stage, saw many teens unaware of the development, while many of those who were said they were not really bothered about voting and elections.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday that the next step is to educate youths about their role in the democratic process. But should this not have happened before we actually voted to give disinterested youths the vote? Would it not have been better to first raise a generation that is aware and willing to take part in this democratic process before actually making them a part of it?

 In any case, it is too late for that now. Let us hope that this education process does bring about a mentality change and that, at the same time, the political parties refrain from exploiting youths to their advantage, all for the sake of votes. 

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