Press Release 20th June 2014
Din l-Art Helwa refers to the new Policy for high-rise buildings that has been published by MEPA following Government approval (http://www.mepa.org.mt/news-details?id=937).
It is ironic that the recently issued Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED), which is intended to replace the Structure Plan and provide the vision for Malta until 2020, states that no further dwelling units are required and questions the need for further office development. This is therefore clearly a case of MEPA reacting to an unjustified need for high rise arising from political pressure to appease certain lobby groups.
As recommended by MEPA’s own advisors, the ultimate question of whether Malta should embark on this journey for high rise or not should ultimately be decided by the citizens of this country and not by a select few. Statistical data should have formed part of this public consultation. Sadly, this is not the case.
Din l-Art Helwa is drawing the attention of the general public to a number of elements in this new MEPA Policy which has been brought into force.
1. Din l-Art Helwa questions how the basic condition to ensure that such high-rise buildings are of a high-quality design will be fulfilled. While it is agreed by all that a proliferation of tall buildings of mediocre quality would completely destroy the Maltese landscape, there is absolutely no emphasis on quality design in the current proposals for the new planning regime which is expected to be in place following the proposed removal of the environment function from MEPA. The current experience of tall buildings in Malta, such as the existing building in Paola near the Addolorata cemetery, gives no reassurance that tall buildings will either improve or regenerate the surrounding areas.
2. Din l-Art Helwa also questions the unexpected inclusion of Mriehel as a location for high-rise buildings. This area was not included by MEPA in the draft Policy in the drafts it submitted for public consultation. The inclusion of a new area without first presenting it to the public (and environment organisations) for comments is unacceptable and undermines the whole public consultation process which MEPA has successfully developed over the past decade. Din l-Art Helwa therefore requests that this area should be withdrawn entirely from the adopted high-rise Policy and that a separate public consultation process be carried out on whether or not Mriehel should become a location for high-rise buildings.
3. Din l-Art Helwa also queries why MEPA has now reduced the site area required for medium rise by the private sector outside the identified strategic zones, from 5,000 sqm to 4,000 sqm. This is a significant change and the reasons for it should be adequately justified to the public.