Din l-Art Helwa has drawn up an action list of environmental tasks for government which the organization considers are urgent for the protection of Malta’s land and marine spaces in view of the many development policies and regulations impacting upon territory which the government intends updating or launching.

The tasks have been listed following recommendations made during the General Assembly of Din l-Art Helwa of the 22nd February, 2014 and were sent in a letter to Mr Leo Brincat, Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Dr Michael Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for Lands, Planning and the Simplification of Administrative Process, Dr Jose’ Herrera, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture and Local Government, Mr Vince Cassar, Chairman, Malta Environment and Planning Authority and with a copy to the Prime Minister, Dr Joseph Muscat responsible both for Sustainable Development and for Lands.

Din l-Art Helwa’s President Ms Simone Mizzi says:  ‘It is easier to tell Government what it can be doing rather than what it should not be doing.  I believe this to be a more positive way of working with those who have the power and responsibility to look after our heritage and environment. Most of these recommendations impact on spatial use of land and sea, perhaps the main aspect of environmental protection that is needed with our island being so small and unused space is at grave risk of being compromised by new building regulations.

It remains of great concern that this administration has never once, since it has been government, spoken out of any plans it may have for the environment, on the contrary it speaks only of new ways to facilitate construction.  Our landscape, last open spaces and views, are in peril of being lost forever.    Din l-Art Helwa does not wish to stand by while this happens, so it will be following each issue up with the Government ministries concerned and will be publishing progress reports.’

The tasks listed are reported below:

  1. Finish the new Structure Plan, launch it, explain it to the public, allow comment and truly listen by taking comments and acting on them.
  2. Start the process to extend Malta’s protected National Park from Majjistral right down to Wied iz-Zurrieq.
  3. Establish a Marine Spatial Plan especially in view of intended land reclamation schemes.  This request by Malta’s Environment and Planning Commissioner in the Ombdusman’s office was disappointingly brushed aside by the Prime Minister.
  4. Add three more Marine Protected Areas to the five already designated but not yet activated.   These could be from Xlendi – Past Ta Cenc to Mgarr ix Xini.  Cirkewwa, plus the Delimara peninsula from Xifer l-Infern to Ras il-Fenek.  Activate and regulate the five already established marine parks so that they are not just circles on paper.
  5. Order the National Statistics Office and Mepa immediately to again register and publish data on land use by construction, both in and out of ODZ.  This invaluable measuring tool seems to have been stopped in 2006.   Din l-Art Helwa is concerned that a thorough Structure Plan cannot be done without such basic information.
  6. While a lot has been done, the General Assembly wishes Govt to step up scheduling of built and natural heritage assets, establish protected views.  With space dwindling these must include the buffer zones for areas of high landscape areas, archaeological sites, for Urban Conservation areas, the sightlines of our dominating church domes, such a unique feature of our baroque heritage.  Once we build around these, this part of Malta’s identity is lost forever.
  7. Step up scheduling in our towns and villages so that today’s desire for horizontal living does NOT rip out the character of their interiors, especially old cities like Valletta with their beautiful courtyards, wrought iron, wooden balconies.  Only Malta has these.
  8. Schedule what is left of the humble vernacular, our rural hamlets.  Protect them from the modern invasion that is about to come.  We would ask you to learn from the destructive extensions to local plans, Bahrija, Zebbieh, Mgarr, Manikata, now all merging into one causing full scale destruction of the countryside.  This organization finds totally unacceptable Government’s contradictory statement that boundaries for out of development zones will not be extended yet the new policy is to allow construction to happen within them.
  9. Assist NGOs with right of redress on Planning Appeals, with more accessible fees and more rights to object to the Planning Authority.
  10. Impose the all important Guardianship Deed as a contract with those businesses granted historic sites for commercial end as is now permitted within the recent ODZ regulation. This valuable tool should not be discarded to facilitate commercial activity with lesser binding contracts.  The Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Dr Jose’ Herrera is hereby copied.
  11. Step up incentive schemes further to regenerate urban conservation schemes.  Create incentives also for sponsors of restoration projects by increasing tax benefits.
  12. Set up the Style Guidance Committee, otherwise who is going to guide planners on acceptable design that is intended to bring innovation?
  13. Give a five year moratorium and grants to REMOVE all aluminium apertures forthwith and BAN this inorganic material, regulate the island’s partiality for kitsch colour schemes, and regulate visual clutter.
  14. Sign the European Landscape Convention.  It is a gross shame that Malta is one of two European countries that have not signed it.  Iceland is the other. Malta signed it in 2000 but needs to ratify this convention by first adhering to the conditions imposed upon the island in terms of landscape protection and management.
  15. Information about 21 land reclamation schemes is still being withheld from the public. It is now urgent that government declares its intention on a matter which will change and redefine the island’s identity and potentially endanger its marine and coastal assets, its visual amenities and the coastal landscape.

Lastly, DLH is highly concerned that when the MEPA is demerged and its environment directorate separated from planning, it is intended to give the Environment only one seat on the board of the new Planning Authority through whom to voice its opinions on schemes and projects that will impact on the environment.

This Organisation wishes to know more about Government’s intentions in this respect and how this one seat on the new Planning board can ever protect the environment significantly if it does not have the right to veto.  The Environment will be very much in the minority on a Board whose sole function will be that of processing development applications.

Prepared by Simone Mizzi

23rd February, 2014