The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
View E-Paper

TMID Editorial: It’s true – ‘Xebbajtuna’

Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 09:05 Last update: about 7 months ago

On Saturday, a number of organisations and individuals will be holding a protest in Valletta.

The activists will be calling for urgent changes in planning policies, in the way the authorities responsible for the environment and planning are operating, and in the country’s economic model. It is a protest that covers a wide-ranging spectrum of subjects under one umbrella – the need to have better control.


The protest is aptly named “Xebbajtuna” – because, yes, most people are fed up.

We have said it many times, and we repeat it again here, that the construction industry is an important part of the country’s economy. But the way it has been allowed to “take over” at the expense of the environment and the community at large is not the way things should have been done.

We remind our readers of a now famous quote that the former president of the Malta Developers Association, Sandro Chetcuti, had said in 2015. “Make hay while the sun shines,” he had told MDA members. And, oh boy, how they took it literally.

Malta has become a concrete jungle in the last decade or so. With a government that has pushed for economic growth via a population growth – the number of people living in our country has roughly increased by 100,000, mostly foreigners who come here to work – it has meant a need for their accommodation.

But this has also meant the pulling down of so many houses to be replaced by blocks of apartments, some of them architecturally hideous. Since the country’s footprint has not grown, we have moved upwards, with buildings climbing higher and higher, changing the skyline forever. But this has not stopped developers from taking up, or planning to take up, more of the few open spaces that remain within the development zones.

It is ironic to think that, while all this is happening, the government has set up another agency to oversee the creation of open, public spaces. While, on the one hand, we are destroying what there is, we are then embarking on projects to create what there isn’t.

In a recent interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday, the president of Din l-Art Helwa – one of the organisations behind Saturday’s protest – said that the Planning Authority is not really an entity involved in “planning”. It is an entity which is focused on “processing applications”, Professor Alex Torpiano, who is also the Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta, said.

The current process, he added, is that when someone files an application for development, the proposal would be assessed for approval on the basis of the interpretation of policies that are already in place, even if possibly outdated. But, he said, “that's not really spatial planning, but is simply the processing of applications according to a set of rules, mostly past their sell-by date, without looking at the overall picture.”

What is even worse is that we have a system that allows development to take place even when appeals are still to be decided. This means that we have situations in which projects are completed… and then a court decides that the permit should not have been given.

This is not to mention the disruption, pollution and inconvenience that all this “development” is creating.

So the organisers could not have chosen a better slogan for Saturday’s protest.  

  • don't miss