The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

‘We were not consulted on the newly proposed metro system’ – local councils

Shona Berger Monday, 25 October 2021, 07:39 Last update: about 2 months ago

Local councils across Malta were not consulted on the newly proposed metro system before the plans were published, The Malta Independent is informed.

At the beginning of this month, the government announced the proposal for the development of a metro system in Malta. The first phase of the project, which is the red line going from Bugibba to Pembroke and Sliema, would be completed within five to eight years, according to the plans presented.

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The project would take a total of 15 to 20 years to complete and it will include three metro lines with a total of 35km of track and 25 stations across Malta’s main urban area. Consequently, the development and constuction phase of the metro system will impact the daily lives of many citizens.

The Malta Independent reached out to a number of local councils for their reaction to the proposed metro system. The local councils which were contacted were Fgura, St Julians, Birkirkara, Naxxar, Balzan, Mosta, Attard, Ħamrun, Sliema, and Valletta. However, only four out of the ten sent replies.

The Fgura local council’s executive secretary said that although the council was not consulted on the proposed metro system, it agrees with the system as it believes that such a development will decrease traffic in Malta’s streets and also reduce air pollution.

The local council also agreed with the placement of the stations as proposed in the project, however, noted that this will reduce the open spaces which are already limited in the locality. The local council highlighted its concern on the project, saying that it will take the majority of the urban green spaces.

The proposed project has already included the suggested locations as to where the stations will be placed. Asked whether the local council has any alternative suggestions for the station location, the Fgura local council did not make any suggestions, saying that it agrees with the proposed location as it is in the centre of the village.

“Therefore, it will be much more convenient for the residents to make use of the metro,” the local council added.  

‘No consultation with local councils is undemocratic’

The St Julians, Attard and Balzan councils also said that up until this stage, they were not consulted on the matter and as such, the only information they have is that which has been made publicly available.

The St Julians mayor said that the government “runs roughshod over the local council, which by law is ‘local government.’ This is not only undemocratic but goes against the democratic respresentations of our residents,” he said.

This is not the first time that the local councils were sidelined and given no opportunity to share concerns or suggestions, he added.

Although the St Julians local council is in agreement in principle with the metro system and alternative travelling, it highlighted that it has a number of concerns about the locations chosen – Balluta and Paceville.

On the other hand, the Balzan local council, which was also not consulted on the metro system, said that it is premature to declare agreement or disagreement.

The Balzan mayor said that “the council is keen on consulting with the residents prior to adopting a firm position. People are generally enthusiastic for cleaner modes of transport than we currently have and the discussion would lie in how one can achieve that target without any negative repercussions. The counil is open to discussions which will lead to viable alternative transport solutions.”

The mayor highlighted that the council’s main priority is to ensure that Balzan is well connected to key locations in Malta.

With regard to the location of the proposed station, the council said that it intends to look into it and is open to assisting the authorities in identifying alternative locations should it be decided that it is more prudent to do so.

“One aspect which the council will definitely insist on is the retention of the playing field in Balzan. Balzan can never not have a playing field and the current plans would seem to remove the only playing field in the locality. We would also want to ensure that this project would fully respect the ecological and historical heritage of the area concerned,” the council said.

Although the Balzan local council has not yet engaged in a formal consultation process, it said that initial feedback received from a number of residents was positive on the aspect of having an alternative mode of public transport, “naturally with several questions on the location of the actual station, the environmental impact and impact on historical heritage of the construction process.

Speaking about issues such as noise pollution which might be brought about by the metro system, the council noted that noise pollution is always a concern. “We certainly look forward to detailed studies being carried out by the National authorities on this matter,” the council said.

Urban green spaces might also be impacted due to such a development. The council noted that “it is of key importance that any such project would not contribute to the destruction and/or reduction of any urban green spaces. but rather contribute to further urban green spaces and open spaces for pedestrians.”

The Attard council did not give any detailed comments but simply highlighted that it was not consulted on the proposed metro system.

 

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