The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar blasts Transport Malta plans for offices, restaurant in Gzira garden

Thursday, 3 June 2021, 15:12 Last update: about 15 days ago

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar is strongly objecting to plans by Transport Malta for the building of marina offices and a commercial outlet in Gzira Gardens. 

The plans would see 500 square metres of the Council of Europe Gardens, one of Gzira's last remaining green lungs, taken up by an office building which will also accomodate a restaurant. The plans are situated partly on a children's playing field in the garden.

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“Building such a structure in a century-old public garden, destroying the children’s play area, is an outrage against residents and children, violating every norm of town planning and public health”, the NGO said on Thursday. 

They noted that the project also contravenes with the North Harbours Local Plan which "recognises that provision of recreational facilities is an essential part of community development and accordingly safeguards land for such uses. 

They added that this garden is vital to the health of Gzira residents and citizens of surrounding towns. 

“Already in 2006, the NHLP had stated that "the provision of public open space in the area would appear to be extremely low". Since then the promenade has been taken over by commercial entities with lidos, kiosks and ticket booths cluttering up the public space while pavements are blocked by restaurant tables and chairs. This garden remains Gzira's only intact lung, therefore his application also violates the SPED Urban Objective 3: To identify, protect and enhance the character and amenity of distinct urban areas by retaining and seeking to achieve a minimum level of urban public open space per person, part of which should be green open space"”, the NGO said. 

“This project will also destroy protected pine trees, Pinus Halepensis, where the Local Plan stipulates: "MEPA has a duty to protect important trees, ...Uprooting, destruction, or damage to trees in gardens and other public open spaces, will be prohibited unless authorised." FAA therefore calls on the Environment Resources Authority (ERA) to issue a Tree Protection Order for these trees”, they added. 

“By no stretch of the imagination can the building of a 500m2 office and restaurant block be considered embellishment of a garden as Transport Malta and the Gzira Local Council are claiming”, they continued. 

They said that it is well known that the building of a capitanerie in Malta is just a facade to grant such a prime site to a restaurant, as has repeatedly happened to every customs house or capitanerie, including the historic customs house by the Pieta Pinetum, Mgarr Harbour and the Manoel Island capitanerie itself. 

“Residents all over Malta are sick of hearing hollow words about public embellishments and healthy living, and children’s rights, when their interests are consistently ignored by businesses, developers and Malta’s authorities. Covid has shown how green open spaces are essential to physical and mental health, yet the situation is worsening by the day. The authorities need to start carrying out their responsibilities, treating residents' mental and physical health as a priority, not as a hindrance to development!”, the NGO said. 

“Gzira need unbuilt open spaces, greenery and clean air in this overdeveloped, over-exploited town. A petrol station is already approved for construction in the garden, additional buildings will destroy this small garden forever.” 

FAA urged all readers to email an objection quoting PA 2845/21 to voice their outrage at how the public is being robbed of its right to a decent quality of life. 

FAA also called on the authorities to prioritise residents' quality of life as stipulated by their remit to put community interests first.  

“130 years ago, Malta's colonial masters gave Gzira a public garden. Malta's supposedly socialist government is now snatching it from the people to give it to their business cronies”, they concluded.

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