The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: A first step for Gozo

Friday, 16 February 2024, 10:03 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Planning Authority made an announcement earlier this week, that it will now require unpainted and unrendered lower globigerina limestone (franka softstone) on the street façade of Gozitan buildings in urban areas. 

The idea behind it, is to ‘preserve, enhance and promote the unique spatial characteristics of Gozo,’ the Planning Authority said. It should hopefully ensure uniformity and improve aesthetics.

The move was welcomed by Gozo based organisations - The Gozo Business Chamber, the Gozo Tourism Association and the Għal Għawdex Forum. The Forum had said that whilst this is a step in the right direction, this decision should be but the first step in the introduction of other measures which should lead towards a regional planning approach for the island, and for the adoption of more policies in this respect.

There seems to be general agreement that it was a good first step. But the PA has a lot more to do and fix in terms of planning policies, and not just in Gozo.

The Planning Authority now falls under Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri. One must stress the need for reforms in planning policies and in the way the Planning Authority operates, not just in Gozo, but across the whole country. Malta, too, is suffering from ugly streetscapes and lack of uniformity, and the minister needs to address this. Better policies for Malta are needed.

In terms of aesthetics in Malta, when walking down a street in dense urban areas one can easily find apartment blocks of varying colours with designs that, quite frankly, do not mesh well together. This is due to a lack of real planning. Improved policies are urgently needed.

Then there were decisions taken years ago which need to be reversed. One such example, was the 2006 rationalisation exercise. There are areas which have yet to be built up, the government should consider making them ODZ again. Too much of the country’s open space has been eaten up, and no more concessions in this respect can be made.

Then there are also issues regarding the protection on heritage. The PA at times decides to protect a façade, but then allows the building around or above to be built in a way that doesn’t really do it justice. Better policies might be needed.

Currently, the Environment and Resources Authority has a single vote on the Planning Authority Board, and does not have a vote on the planning commission. The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage doesn’t have a vote in either. They should be given a stronger say when it comes to planning applications. Friends of the Earth Malta director Martin Galea De Giovanni believes that the Environment and Resources Authority should be given the ability to veto planning applications that go before the Planning Authority's Board for instance. Giving these two institutions more power could lead to a better balance between economic considerations and the environment and the preservation of cultural heritage.

Another issue that needs tackling, is allowing the construction of apartment blocks if the parking requirements are not met, instead allowing for a payment to be made. With traffic the way it is in Malta, this should not be allowed. If a developer cannot have the required number of spaces, then reduce the size of the building. It’s that simple.

This is not to mention the need to find ways to reduce garbage or recycling bags on streets, an issue which the introduction of certain planning policies could help tackle for the future.

There are many issues with planning in the whole country that need to be tackled if we want to improve the look of the islands and ensure better preservation of what makes Malta unique.

 

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