The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Residents worried about MTA design contest for regeneration of Marsascala

Saturday, 19 June 2021, 12:05 Last update: about 3 months ago

Marsascala residents deserve and have a right to be consulted widely and authentically on the future of theirlocality, NGO Graffitti said today.

Major ‘developments’ are being proposed for Marsascala - from the Jerma remake to yet another water polo pitch - and residents are constantly being ignored by the authorities. 

Three weeks ago, The Malta Independent on Sunday had reported that Marsascala residents have been left fearing a proposed regeneration of their locality, with a saga involving a so-called Regeneration Committee set up by the local council initially as a transport and infrastructure sub-committee and made up by businessmen with an interest in the locality’s square in particular still fresh in their minds.

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Residents told The Malta Independent on Sunday that the Marsascala Regeneration Committee was made up of individuals with self-serving business interests in the locality, and how they had opened talks with state entities for massive changes to areas such as Marsaskala’s main square behind their backs as residents, and without informing the local council itself.

This sub-committee was chaired by Mr Ray Abela. Other members included his cousin Mr Eric Abela, with business interests in the Marsascala square and surroundings, Mr Joseph Farrell, also with business interests in the Marsascala square, Ms Angele Abela, head of a Minister’s secretariat, and the mayor himself. This sub-committee was found to be functioning behind residents’ backs, with no terms of reference, and illegally headed by a chairperson who was not a member of the local council. Significantly, this sub-committee was liaising directly with other government agencies, including the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and Infrastructure Malta, Graffitti said during a press conference held this morning.

Proposals discussed by this sub-committee included plans to pedestrianise the area in front of the proposed boutique hotel owned by Eric Abela near Ġnien Sant’ Anna. This would see the redirection of traffic into and out of Marsascala from Triq Santa Tereża, right beneath the public school and in front of the parish church, exposing this community area to high levels of traffic danger. Other plans included the taking over of the existing concrete hard-standing facility beneath the parish church currently used by boat owners during the winter season and by the general public and local clubs during the summer season. Under the guise of ‘embellishment’, take-up of this area would necessitate another concrete hard standing facility to be constructed on the other side of the bay, possibly involving land reclamation with unknown environmental consequences, and further take-up of Marsascala Bay.

"We think this is designed to satisfy the private interests of the few," Graffitti said. The subcommittee was dissolved following residents’ pressure on the local council, with the mayor’s premise that these same people can still push their ideas through different channels.

Not having achieved their plans through the subcommittee, we have strong reason to suspect that they are now choosing another channel – that of the MTA, currently headed by Johann Buttigieg, known for his strong links to business interests. On the 22nd May 2021, the MTA launched the Marsascala Regeneration Design Contest with a vision for the upgrade and urban regeneration of the areas mentioned above. Residents are concerned with direct references to words like ‘upgrades’ and ‘developments’ within this same proposal. In the past, such references meant mass-development plans that would forever ruin the character of our village, the NGO said.

Marsascala has been making headlines with several developments presented as ‘upgrades’ for the locality, including the massive apartment complex proposed for the ex-Jerma site, the infamous American University of Malta campus at Żonqor, and topping them all, the construction of a third water polo site handed over by government through secret deals to the water polo club. These decisions were taken without community consultation.

All these projects involve the take-up of public assets handed over to a couple of business interests and threaten the fabric of our community, shrinking the few remaining public spaces for our enjoyment. We have reason to fear that this ‘design contest’ is a continuation of the pattern whereby business interests acting behind the scenes are accommodated at the expense of our quality of life, wellbeing and environmental assets, the NGO said.

 

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