The Malta Independent 26 September 2021, Sunday

Updated: ‘Enough is enough’: Sliema, St Julian’s and Gzira residents protest

Shona Berger Saturday, 12 December 2020, 11:16 Last update: about 11 months ago

 

Sliema and St Julian’s residents, Local Councils, NGO Flimkien Ghal-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) and Moviment Graffiti protested against the overdevelopment of tall buildings and commercial developments in the two towns on Saturday.

Dozens gathered on the Sliema promenade at Għar id-Dud out of frustration and concern of what is happening to their hometown. Participants, all wearing face masks and abiding by social distancing, held up a number of placards.

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The signs held urged people to ‘stand up and be counted’, other placards read, ‘iż-żejjed kollu żejjed’ (enough is enough).

Residents expressed their dissapointment in the extreme development that is taking place. Some questioned, ‘but do we really need all these buildings? Do we need all these hotels?’

"Certain developments that are happening are a shame and disgrace," residents said.

FAA coordinator Astrid Vella said that ‘politicians seem to believe that because of Covid-19, everyone went silent, but we cannot tolerate this silence.’

Vella highlighted that Sliema has seen taken the brunt of the overheated development sector, with the PA issuing permits for 2,300 residential units in Sliema alone from 2013-2019, 70 of which were for hotels and guest houses.

"One can only imagine the amount of permits that were issued in towns like St. Julian’s, Gzira and Swieqi all together. Most probably, falf of the permits that are issued in Malta and Gozo, have been issued in our zones," she said.

Vella highlighted that back in 1992 there was an understanding to stop demolishins of houses to develop new flats but this has clearly not happened.

This is now causing outrage as 13-storey hotels darken residential side-streets and pollution from emissions trapped in narrow streets in undermining residents’ health. Noise from seashore venues, the TownSquare complex and the destruction of the Officer’s Mess (ex-Holiday Inn) to be replaced by a high-rise are all threathening Qui si-Sana.

With regard to the Gzira area, Vella remarked that ‘the ultimate insult is the fact that one-tenth of Gzira’s footprint – Manoel Island – has been given away to MIDI instead of being turned into a much-needed public park. Accomodating MIDI has meant that Gzira residents will also lose a chunk of the Gzira promenade and Gzira Gardens. The lack of intitiative to buy it back for the public totally belies the government’s claims to be greening urban areas.’

Moviment Graffiti activist Andre Callus said that Malta, especially zones in Sliema, St Julians and Gzira was under siege because of the large amount of planning permits that didn’t make sense from every single aspect, including for economy, planning and quality of life.

Callus expressed that ‘it’s insane to have these savage developments that are drowning our quality of life, not just for us but also for future generations that are yet to come live in such areas which are currently a mess and disaster.’

"These defective planning policies did not happen due to a lack of planning, but they were engineered to pump profit into the pockets of a few, not for the whole public," he said.

Callus strongly stated that people should not give up this fight and should never lose hope that this situation will someday change to the better.

He said that ‘it is of utmost importance to not give in, because that’s what they are waiting for us to do, for us to give up. The fight needs to continue, or else we would lose everything that we’ve worked and fought for.’

Sliema councillor Paul Radmilli said that we are in a dire situation when it comes to the development in these areas.

Radmilli proposed that the planning authority needs to be focused not only on the planning policies but also on construction policies. Construction and planning need to go hand in hand, he said.

The planning authority has a monopoly position in every decision that is taken. He also proposed that that the chairman who deals with appeal procedures needs to be totally impartial.

He said that the boards who makes decisions related to ODZ, need to be chaired by an ERA representative.

"I am tired and fed up of attending such protests. It is imperative that a change occurs when it comes to developments in these areas," Radmilli said.

St Julian’s Mayor Albert Buttigieg said that ‘we need to be active citizens, rather than passive ones who accept everything that comes.’

‘We can no longer accept certain decisions that are being taken which make a few people happy but at the same time, upset many others’, he said.

As a representative of St Julian's, Buttigieg said that this area has become one construction site and there is not even one street that is not overloaded with atrocious buildings.

He encouraged people ‘to never give up and stand up when we’ve had enough because this is our home.’

Residents spoke out against:

-       Higher building which are destroying the character of the area.

-       Lack of enforcement of building regulations which means that the towns are over-run by construcition vehicles, cranes, dirt and noise.

-       Tall buildings legislation which allows tall buildings without the necessary transport and utilities infrastructure, and ignoring warnings of heat canyon effect

-            Boosting the development sector by granting building permits in an uncontrolled and often abusive manner.

-            The revision of sanitary laws, to further reduce the minimal checks and minimum standards expected of developers.

-            Granting the use of public pavements and roads for extensions of bars, cafes and restaurants, further limiting exercise opportunities for the most obese population in the EU.

 

 

 

 

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