The Malta Independent 18 May 2022, Wednesday

President says he was ‘pioneer’ in raising environmental awareness

Tuesday, 4 May 2021, 15:07 Last update: about 2 years ago

President George Vella has said that he was a pioneer in raising environmental awareness, and had taken action for the Planning Authority to be made “more respectable and authoritative”.

The Office of the President was referring to the recent social media posts criticising the President for voicing his concern at the construction of a four-storey tenement just a few metres away from a scheduled building close to his street in Żejtun.

Several commentators alleged that the President "woke up" to the reality of this urban destruction by unattractive buildings only now that it struck close to where he lives.

Being criticised comes with any public office, including that of the President, even though one cannot understand why such criticism should be laced with insults, accusations, innuendos and outright name calling, a statement issued by the OPR said.

The office thought it fit to ensure that the general public is duly informed about the countless occasions where President Vella spoke against this outrage in urban development.

For completion’s sake, the Office underlines that in the late 70s, early 80s, President George Vella was one of the pioneers talking and writing about environmental awareness.  Between 1996 and 1998, during his tenure as minister in charge of the environment, several actions were taken to make the then-Planning Authority more respectable and authoritative.

Those who follow this dossier with interest would know of the many instances in President Vella’s political career in which he spoke in Parliament on the need to protect the environment and to achieve sustainability, the statement said.

In 2019, when he was chosen unanimously to the Office of the President of the Republic, he was categorical in his inaugural address about the need for better controls, pleading to the relevant authorities to abide scrupulously to rules and legislation.

He repeated this call on each and every occasion he had, both in his public speeches and declarations, as well as during the innumerable occasions he had in meeting groups and organisations that paid courtesy calls to his office.

Over the last months, the President’s calls became more strident when addressing professionals in the field, as he did when addressing the winners of the Malta Spatial Planning Award.

President Vella was probably among the very first to use the word ‘uglification’ of Malta when referring to the distasteful buildings that were popping up all over the islands and wreaking havoc on the much-cherished texture of our urban centres, the statement said.

The appeal was never to stop the urban development, which one realises that unfortunately has to happen to provide for population growth, the necessary infrastructure, and social needs.

The appeal was always directed at finding that delicate point, where there is balance between the built-up environment and the natural environment, in these small islands of ours.

The appeal was, and still is, for the responsible authorities to have a good critical look at the end results of their planning and permit policies.

However good and academically justified such rules and regulations appear on the statute book, the end result is dreadful for anyone, even the common man in the street, to see.

President Vella joined all well-intentioned citizens in launching a sincere, heartfelt appeal to the authorities that be to have a serious review of existing planning and building regulations, in order to avoid allowing more unsightly and obtrusive structures to rise all over Malta and Gozo.


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