The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Protest held against high rise projects; PM does not care about impact assessments - Astrid Vella

Helena Grech Wednesday, 22 June 2016, 19:40 Last update: about 4 years ago

A public protest was held today in opposition of the Town Square Project High Rise building in Sliema, where some 200 people attended.

Speakers included Lawyer Claire Bonello, Astrid Vella from Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Paul Radmilli from the Sliema Local Council, Marlene Farrugia on behalf of the newly formed Democratic Party and Michael Briguglio from the Sliema Local Council. The protest is also supported by Sliema Residents, The Civil Society Network, The Graffittee Movement and Alternattiva Demokratika.

They called for the suspension of high-rise development projects until a national master plan is drawn up.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat regarding the development on ODZ land in Zonqor, Mrs Vella said that he told her an impact assessment “does not matter to [him], residents get used to everything.” 

The Town Square development in Qui-Si-Sana, which was a 33-storey tower but was then changed to a 38-storey tower has been proposed by the Gasan Group. It was scheduled to be discussed by the Planning Authority’s board. Many have criticised for this meeting taking place without a number of important studies missing from the impact assessment.

A prohibitory injunction was then filed by FAA, which led to the meeting being postponed. This decision has been unheald.

A claim put forward by the Sliema Local Council relating to the PA concealing documents was denied, leading to Sliema Councillor Paul Radmilli speaking out this response. He asserted that important traffic studies had not been uploaded to the PA website.

Lawyer Claire Bonello said “today 25 residents, sympathisers and three NGOs: FAA, Friends of the Earth and the Qui-Si-Sana and Tigne Residents Associations together with a St Julian’s Councillor and the Mayor of Swieqi Noel Muscat in their personal capacity have filed a prohibitory injunction for tomorrow’s meeting in relation to the high rise building be suspended until all the necessary impact assessments have been carried out.

“Tomorrow’s hearing will not take place, the court has provisionally held our request, and then there is a court hearing to see if the prohibitory injunction will be upheld long term.

“A social impact assessment has not taken place, neither has an assessment about the economic vitality and in the wider context, nor a green travel plan has been submitted by the developer.”

With regard the traffic assessment, Dr Bonello said she found the conclusion that there is less traffic in Sliema to be highly suspect, as gridlock still happens on a daily basis.

Dr Briguglio, who is a university lecturer, quipped that had the Government the Planning Authority been at university, they would have failed for a lack of objectivity when considering a project and making an assessment. He then said that it is as though the various contractors are trying to compete to see who has a “bigger one,” a bigger high rise tower that is. He said this in view of the high rise towers proposed for St Julian’s and Mriehel.

Note was made of Finance Minister Edward Scicluna’s harsh words about Malta’s economy, when he said that the current economic model, of major projects, is not sustainable.

Dr Briguglio warned that Malta could end up in a similar economic situation to that of Spain or Greece.

He made reference to a conservative study which asserted that the project would bring 10,000 cars to the area Qui-Si-Sana, and therefore questioned why a social impact assessment was not carried

The Minister for Social Policy Michael Farrugia’s response to the groups’ question as to why no social impact assessment had taken place was that it is an infrastructural project which is not in his portfolio

He made reference to the problem of drainage currently plaguing Sliema, and how it needs to be made a priority.

Dr Farrugia spoke of the need for a master development plan. She said that the government has promised to present such a plan to the environmental Parliamentary Group, so that it may be scruitinised and viewed by the public (sessions are streamed online). 

The following is a comment from a Sliema resident:

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