Joint Press Release from Environmental NGOs re Mistra Mega-Project

6th June 2008

The environmental NGOs Birdlife Malta, Gaia Foundation, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Light Pollution Awareness Group, NatureTrust (Malta) and Ramblers Association of Malta, today strongly criticized the MEPA decision to give the green light to Mistra mega-project and questioned the reason why this and similar permits are being rushed through when MEPA reform is imminent.

The NGOs are adamant that it is not possible to justify a project to create 868 new apartments in an area that has 9,000 empty properties. MEPA and ADT are well aware that both the Halcrow Report and the T10 study clearly state that Xemxija Hill is already overloaded with traffic and cannot support any increase. It is for this reason that neither a Tall Building nor any project that develops the site more intensively than the previous Mistra Village should be permitted considering the road’s limitations. Alternatives have already been explored and found to be unfeasible, therefore granting a permit which would increase traffic through Xemxija Hill would be highly irresponsible of the MEPA Board.

The Mistra permit was granted in spite of the fact that the NGOs pointed out that the FAR regulations specify that tall building projects are not to be allowed on ridges due to a great negative impact on the landscape, both from land and sea – once highrises are permitted on Xemxija ridge, the uniformity and harmony of Maltese ridges will be forever destroyed as this will set a precedent for all other areas.

The development will also imperil our heritage as the EIA stated that the unique Underground Flour Mill would be placed at risk by the building works which will involve the road that forms the ceiling of the mill.The proposed set of tall buildings will block air and sunlight reaching residences even streets away.

A Richmond Foundation Conference recently raised the issue that over-urbanisation contributes to mental illness and social isolation; does MEPA refuse to recognise that by approving such projects simply to enrich developers it is inflicting very serious problems on our communities?

Malta’s mega-projects are being approved in spite of the fact they do not conform to the full energy/water efficiency 2007 regulations; without rigorous assessment using an established international sustainable development rating system (such as LEED) they will not only cause further deterioration to our climate change situation but also expose the taxpayer to major fines for not conforming to EU Energy Directives. With emissions from particulate matter at some 38 times higher than the highest international recommended levels, Malta’s air pollution problems will also be aggravated.

The environment NGOs call for a moratorium on major projects until MEPA reform is implemented. It is ironic that a project as unsustainable as the Mistra towers was approved on World Environment Day, and at a time when so much emphasis has been laid on Malta’s sustainable development commitments. The environment groups call for an immediate inquiry into how such a permit could have been recommended and approved in violation of not only the Local Plan, FAR and EU regulations but also our Constitution and new sustainability goals.