The Malta Independent 18 January 2022, Tuesday

TMID Editorial - Balluta jetty: Public pressure does work

Monday, 6 December 2021, 08:22 Last update: about 2 months ago

After a prolonged campaign of public opposition, Captain Morgan on Saturday finally listened and dropped its plans to build a ferry jetty at Balluta Bay in St. Julian’s.

The company said that they had taken the decision because “the sentiment has been clearly against” the project, and that they would be instead working with the St. Julian’s local council and the relevant NGOs in order to find a different location in the locality for the jetty.

“We believe this is the right decision in the prevailing circumstances, even though the jetty is covered with all the planning and environmental permits required at law, and the area in question does not fall within an official swimming zone. Meanwhile, the company has also directed its architects and lawyers to withdraw all applications for the Balluta jetty, with immediate effect," the company said.

St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg welcomed the decision, saying that the pressure mounted by the council, NGOs and residents had worked.

“This is a victory not only for St Julian’s but also for common sense and the common good. It shows that we can reach a good conclusion through dialogue,” he said.

Indeed, this is another case where public protest and public pressure has paid off: another example to cite whenever anybody suggests that engaging in protests and in making opinions heard is a useless exercise.

Public pressure, particularly on matters of environmental concern, have yielded results – be it in the form of total withdrawals of projects or in the form of, at least, achieving changes in design which keep the residents and/or the environment more in mind.

One must praise NGOs such as Moviment Graffitti and countless other environmental organisations who have consistently supported and mobilised residents against projects which would directly affect their wellbeing from different communities across the islands.

The only pity is that it must take countless protests across months for residents to actually achieve what should be protected for them in the first place.

The Balluta case is a good example of this: Captain Morgan is right in pointing out that the project had the blessing of all the necessary planning and environmental permits.

That’s because Malta continues to have a Planning Authority which has time and time again been demonstrably incompetent and incapable of listening to the pleas of residents surrounding developments of significance such as this.

Public opposition to the project was as vehement and widespread as it was back when the development was heard by the Planning Authority as it is now: and yet the PA chose to approve the project.

It’s commendable and a sign of maturity that Captain Morgan have (finally) listened to those concerns and withdrew the plans – but the actual listening should have been done by the Planning Authority in the first place.

One of the many government slogans in this administration was ‘a government which listens’.  It would do well to actually come good on that every now and again.

 

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