The Malta Independent 29 July 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Aesthetics policy - It needs to offer true solutions

Monday, 21 June 2021, 13:36 Last update: about 2 months ago

An aesthetics policy for buildings in Malta is in the pipeline and it is indeed most needed, especially given the way some localities have seen a hotchpotch of designs.

The uglification of certain localities around the Maltese islands is a reality. Blank white walls towering over smaller buildings, little boxes upon boxes costing way more than they should be worth, trying to build that extra floor over ones neighbour just to fit in that extra apartment… mostly out of greed, causing neighbours to want to do the same…

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What exactly are we thinking? The idea of making extra cash is of course appealing, and one must consider that sometimes it is not a massive developer making such constructions, but the man in the street, trying to ensure some extra income for his children.

It is by far a difficult situation as, while it is understandable that in this day and age money is so important, we are also ruining this country for future generations. We are not thinking far enough ahead.

Yes renting out apartments or selling them might help our children financially… but what about the environment we are leaving behind?

Housing prices are high… perhaps too high for the wages which the Maltese receive. It’s become so very hard for young people to find a decent property to live in. Maybe that is something which really should be looked into... do wages need to be higher to keep up with the costs in this country and if yes, how do we tackle that?

Is it the lack of good wages leading people to sell property to developers to build up, or build up themselves in what has essentially become the basic formula of pigeon coops to rent or sell in order to make up the cash for the lack of good wages? Are all of these apartments being lived in?

If wages were higher, would as many people sell property to build up or build up themselves? Would they build nicer structures with more space in apartments? Will they retain the townhouses rather than go for flats? What kind of future are we building exactly?

The Planning Authority has failed, the successive governments have failed. Some localities have completely lost their character. The question now is, do we let that situation spread, or do we say STOP!

An aesthetics policy for buildings is in the pipeline, and it really needs to live up to its name. This cannot be a simple play for publicity, but needs tangible solutions to the uglification of the country. There is nothing wrong in building apartments, but at least make sure they look nice. Right now, architects need to take a long hard look at their creations. Do they fit in with the other buildings in the street? Can we make them look more appealing visually from the outside?

Prime Minister Abela himself has made a comment. "We need to make intelligent choices.  If the Planning Authority is accepting a permit, it needs to look at the aesthetics as well, not just whether the proposal is in line with development policies.”

But this is not enough. More safeguards are needed to protect the look and feel of our country, to protect our skyline. The time has come to review basic planning policies that have allowed such ugly buildings to be built.

How can we protect the true nature and feel of this country for our children, their children and future generations?

 

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