It is obvious that if you construct buildings with mixed and perhaps incompatible uses next to each other, this is likely to lead to eternal conflicts and dissatisfaction between neighbours. Finding a way to co-exist can be very difficult. That is the principle behind locating certain types of developments outside urban areas, such as large farms or fireworks factories – apart from health and safety, of course.

Residents are regularly up in arms at Birzebbugia, Marsascala and Maghtab due to the industrial facilities there, including complaints about noise. Other people complain about noisy entertainment outlets near their homes, or quarries.

The government is currently working on a new ‘development brief’ for Marsaxlokk. I do not know what is in store except for the stated aim to “boost tourism”, but Maltatoday recently questioned whether certain building heights in Marsaxlokk might be set to rise.

Yet the noise impact report in the Environmental Impact Statement on the new power station at Delimara, currently available for consultation, puts forward a clear recommendation against raising building heights in Marsaxlokk, due to the potential noise emanating from the new energy plant and which could present more of a nuisance to people in the upper storeys of a building.

This recommendation is perfectly in line with the direction of Malta’s ‘Noise Action Plan’, which identifies the planning system as one of the tools for reducing the impact of noise on the urban environment.

The noise report in the EIS recommends that, “no residential development ought to be allowed to the north of the Delimara Power Station boundary within a 400m distance of the nearest DPS boundary. Any height increase in the presently occupied residences – ie changes from one storey to two stories or more, will expose the nearby residences both presently and with the new development to possible nuisance or health effects.” It also states that “the permitting of any future high rise, such as to expose the higher parts of any façade to Delimara Power Station, should be curbed.”

Apart from buildings in the vicinity of Tas-Silg and Ta’ Wilga, the report also pinpoints the il-Kavallerizza area and the Marsaxlokk seafront, as sound easily travels across water and could annoy residents on the opposite side of the bay.

The noise consultant cautions against exposing Enemalta to potentially acrimonious situations. I am curious to see how the new Marsaxlokk development brief will take this on board. Choices always have to be made – you can’t both have the cake and eat it.