The Malta Independent 13 July 2024, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Protecting our green areas

Saturday, 18 November 2023, 10:57 Last update: about 9 months ago

Over the past couple of years or so, the government has been stressing the importance of green spaces in urban areas, and the importance of protecting the environment. These are great goals to have, and work creating more green areas must continue. In a recent press statement, the government announced that between 2022 and 2024, families will have more than 325,000 square metres of new or regenerated green open spaces in Malta and Gozo. Good news indeed.

But what the government is doing is not enough. There are planning policies and planning decisions that are having a negative impact on the environment.

We still have green areas which are being built up. One reason for this, is land which was once considered Outside the Development Zone, but which were then included inside it through a rationalization exercise in the mid-2000s. It was a terrible idea by the government of the day, and every government that came after has failed to take action and are therefore also responsible. Applications for development of rationalization area sites were approved over the years, but some areas are still green. One recent controversy is in Mqabba, where a planning application filed on such land by a company in which developer Joseph Portelli is one of the shareholders, is proposing the construction of 43 residential units on vacant land and is going through the Planning Authority process.

Why hasn’t the government done something to ensure that those green areas that haven’t been built yet are again protected?

Then there are certain developments that are approved on ODZ land outright.

One example, would be a home for the elderly constructed between Naxxar and Gharghur, which had been approved back in 2017.

Now, another application for an elderly home, just one road away also on ODZ land is being considered. The application was sent back to the drawing board to reduce the overall height and mass of the proposal in a recent planning board meeting, but was not outright refused. To top things off, the application was filed by a Labour Party local councillor… the same party that has been arguing the importance of protecting the environment.

While the government is highlighting the importance of protecting green areas and increasing green areas within the community, such applications are approved or considered.

As for green areas inside localities, government must ensure that they are truly green and not made up mainly of paved areas, or areas for kiosks or shops. When we speak about tall buildings having open space for the community… how much of that open space is really green? When we speak about redoing town squares to improve them, is enough greenery being included? Do we really need to chop or remove mature trees for ones that will take years to grow? Is there too much paving?

The government talks a lot about protecting the environment and creating more urban green areas, but it needs to do a lot more.

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