The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Development and construction - A long road ahead

Tuesday, 11 May 2021, 07:23 Last update: about 2 months ago

The newly appointed Director General of the Malta Developers’ Association, Deborah Schembri recently stressed the need for strong enforcement in the construction industry, due to those who breach regulations giving the whole sector a bad name.

Schembri is right of course. Enforcement in the construction sector has been lacking for many years. The danger posed to neighbours of construction sites and to construction sector employees, who are from time to time seen standing on a plank of wood on the side of a building held by two ropes, while not wearing a harness, is present. The Building and Construction Authority will hopefully seriously boost enforcement in this sector to the point that contractors will not even consider breaking regulations.

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Schembri made a number of other points during the interview. She argued that if rules and guidelines allow for development that leads to the uglification of an area, then the problem lies with those laws, guidelines and the Local Plans. “You cannot really blame a developer for developing the land within that which the law permits.”

Guidelines and policies desperately need to change in order to stop the uglification of parts of Malta and Gozo. Perhaps policies regulating the design of buildings in specific areas should be strengthened also. While Schembri is generally speaking right, in that the policies are to blame, one must point out that some developers find a way to get their developments through anyway, even when such plans are, at the very least, questionable.

If we truly want to make a more beautiful Malta, then the way forward is quite clear. Further restrict development on ODZ, give more powers to the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the ERA when it comes to rejecting development proposals, and have a serious rethink of Malta’s planning policies.

This will not be an easy task, but if we truly want to keep Malta’s character and keep Malta ‘good looking’ for tourists, then perhaps we need to make some sacrifices. Should we be allowed to build 4-5 storey apartment blocks on the edge of a UCA area for instance? Should we allow the extra floors for hotels? Should we take into consideration Malta’s skyline?

These are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves.

In addition, perhaps it is time to stop, once and for all, developers selling apartments on plan prior to the Planning Authority permit being granted. This gives rise to the suspicion that the Planning Authority is in the pockets of certain developers.

We must never lose sight of the importance of the tourism industry in Malta. Tourists who come here do not want to see blank party walls, do not want to see square cube apartment blocks. Lets be honest, would you rather visit Sliema and St Paul’s Bay… or Mdina and Birgu. Allowing construction to continue the way it is could one day be the downfall of Malta’s tourism.

Another point must be made on actual construction works. Malta is dusty, thanks, in part, to construction sites. Far better measures are needed to keep the dust  created through excavation within the site itself, to prevent it from ending up on our roads. One hopes that the BCA will bring with it an overall improvement in terms of oversight.

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