The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Preserving what is left

Tuesday, 14 May 2024, 10:51 Last update: about 12 days ago

Residents in Zurrieq protested last week over plans to establish the parameters for the rationalisation of a particular area.

The area in question is near Triq I-Kanonku Vincenz Balzan c/w Triq Napuljun. It formed part of the infamous 2006 rationalisation exercise, where land that was outside the development zone was moved inside. 

Residents and farmers led by the Għaqda Residenti taż-Żurrieq called on the government to amend the local plans for the region, in the wake of the zoning application that seeks to zone the area for apartment blocks of three floors in height.

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“The country’s leadership needs to understand that residents across Malta are fed up of environmental destruction for the sake of speculation,” said one resident. “It’s as if they made it their mission to destroy Zurrieq, but it’s the same everywhere. Our struggle is not partisan and is similar to that of residents across Malta; we believe that public land should not be sold off, and agricultural land should be given to farmers.” The resident is not wrong, and there have been similar struggles around the country. People are indeed fed up of greedy overdevelopment and the government has to take serious action about it.

There have been some noteworthy environmental victories recently, although these have been one-offs. Hondoq ir-Rummien is one example. Another is the recent announcement that government would amend  local plans to protect agricultural land around the Bulebel Industrial Estate that was planned for expansion from future development.

To this newsroom’s understanding the land regarding Bulebel was government owned.

But when in comes to the 2006 rationalisation exercise, there still doesn’t seem to be any hope of reversing the decision.

Prime Minister Robert Abela to say that it was a decision taken by the PN government to introduce land equivalent to the size of Siggiewi into the development zone, but is not willing to reverse that decision. "That created new realities, giving rights to people, children who inherited property on which they can develop. Can we as a government tell them that until yesterday they could develop and from today onwards we tore up that right? I believe we would be creating instability in the market and an injustice,” Abela said. He said that the government is finding balance, as the Lands Department has land around the country. "For vacant properties that are not built, the choice is clear. Where there is private land, it is private, where there is government land we will make many efforts not to build where it is possible not to build, and instead create projects that would be of benefit for society," he said.

One hopes that any government land left in the rationalisation zones is, in that case, left green. But his statement shows that the government is not willing to reverse the 2006 exercise. Is the government saying that it doesn’t have the power to rezone an area to something less than what is permitted today? But on the other hand, what about the rights of people who have been negatively affected by government policies that allowed massive developments?

What about those areas which formed part of the rationalisation exercise which, as yet, don’t have permits for development or zoning permits that could lead to development for example? Could the government act there? What about ensuring the preservation of green areas for future generations? The government should consider looking into the legality of whether it can or cannot reverse the rationalisation of such sites.

The government is purchasing sites for band clubs to continue operating, wouldn’t it be beneficial to purchase areas to ensure green space remains green? The idea of building gardens in the community is commendable and is a good move, but we must also preserve our pristine areas.

The construction boom has led to too much overdevelopment. The boom was caused by economic expansion without proper planning in terms of where the country was going to house so many workers or what kind of impact such a drastic population rise was going to have on the country in terms of development.

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