Love and tears: the theatrics of the speculative brigade

During the conference launching the KPMG annual review of the property market held last week, Michael Stivala, Malta Development Association Chairman, in a tear-jerking intervention, told us that the developers love us. Developers, he emphasised, need to treat third parties neighbouring their development as part of the family.

There is only one reply to these theatrics: we have had enough.  Much more than enough, in fact.

Redevelopment works in most of our towns and villages are, many a time, carried out without sufficient attention to the needs of and impacts on those living and working in the vicinity. At times it is seems as if they don’t even exist. They are considered by developers to be a nuisance.

ADPD-The Green Party has been at the forefront, over the years, in emphasising the need to apply a moratorium on large-scale development. It is welcome news that former Prime Minister and Labour Leader Alfred Sant is now singing from the same hymn book.

Too much damage has been done over the years through the continuous support of over-development by the state.

The rationalisation exercise approved by Parliament in 2006 had then added two million square metres of ODZ land to the development zone. A substantial portion of this land is now in the process of being developed and most localities are at the receiving end. To date ADPD-The Green Party is the only political party advocating the reversal of this exercise. We have been constantly harping this point since the day the rationalisation exercise was approved way back in July 2006.

To add insult to injury, the state does not fail to take up opportunities to join the speculative industry as is currently being done by Enemalta at il-Qajjenza, limits of Birżebbuġa. Earlier this week it has been reported in the media that Enemalta Corporation as well as the Lands Authority are supporting a planning control application by a private developer, which application is proposing the development of the site of the former gas-bottling plant. This site was decommissioned some years back when the LPG sector was privatised and the plant moved to another site at Bengħajsa.

This planning control application (PC 22/23) involves land having an area of slightly under 24,000 square metres and seeks to change the zoning of the site of the former Enemalta gas bottling depot to one of mixed residential and commercial development spread over six blocks. The proposed blocks vary in height from four to eight floors.

Do we need this? Isn’t enough damage already in hand? The question which begs a reply is the need to explain why Enemalta and the Lands Authority are joining the speculative brigade: bulldozing over the rights of the residential community. Enemalta has caused too much damage to the Birżebbuġa community over the years. Isn’t it time for some form of atonement?  Enemalta should commence planning for reparations, to make good the damage done over the years.

It would be of considerable interest to know the views, on the proposed Qajjenza development, of the three government MPs elected from the Birżebbuġa electoral district. These being Robert Abela, Prime Minister, Enemalta and Environment Minister Miriam Dalli and land use planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo-Azzopardi. It would not be in my view incorrect to assume that they support this application, as otherwise they would have stopped Enemalta from giving its consent.

It is no use that they now join Michael Stivala in shedding tears in sympathy with the Qajjenza residential community. It would have been more appropriate if the political appointees which they have nominated over the years took the appropriate decisions immediately.

Shedding tears is not a newly invented gimmick. Fortunately, most can see through such theatrics.

Carmel Cacopardo
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 12 November 2023