Tuesday, 8th November 2016
Paceville’s hide and seek
Alfred E. Baldacchino
Mott MacDonald and Broadway Malyan were commissioned by the Planning Authority to draw up a master plan for Paceville. A master plan described by the PA, their client, as one that “creates inviting public spaces, opens up views to the sea, and makes the most of the impressive coastline”, “it builds (my italics) an iconic skyline and a real sense of place”. The PA boasts that they have “looked at the bigger picture, to deliver something for everyone in Malta.”
How very true. When it comes to building and overlooking the nitty gritty and externalities of such developments, especially monstrous ones, there is no one better than the PA to build and just look at the bigger picture.
The PA brought over their international consultants for the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Environment and Planning’s meeting on 2nd November. The room was bursting at its seams with stakeholders from all walks of life, all searching for information on a master plan they had unknowingly paid for without any input from them, but just from the selected few, or let’s say, the PA.
Unfortunately the consultants’ explanations raised more questions than answers. It was more like a mix and match master plan: wish lists, selected suggestions, hidden justifications, and discreet terms of reference, with the Planning Authority in the driving seat dishing €300,000 for their desired choice.
Without exception, stakeholders present on 2nd November, all (except ERA) painfully sought information about how the hidden externalities of this master plan would affect them. How will these impact the present commercial community of Paceville and beyond?
How will the well-being of the present and future residents, and all commuters to the area be affected, both physically and psychologically? How will the residents’ private properties be impacted, some even worried that their property will be expropriated to accommodate private commercial purposes?
Considering the high population density of the area and beyond, one of the highest in Europe, can this be borne by the Island’s carrying capacity?
What will be the impact on the acute daily traffic problems, now acknowledged by the Minister for transport? Not just in Paceville, but also in the surrounding environs?
Is the proposed land reclamation in line with Malta’s international obligations ?
What are the impacts on the terrestrial and marine biodiversity?
Are some of the designs in the master plan put forward by the local Authority, or are they original designs of the consultants?
What was the relationship of the consultants, directly or indirectly, with developer(s) interested in the area?
How will such a master plan further deplete the scarce natural resources of the island?
In what way will the infrastructure of the area have to be redesigned?
Not one adequate or satisfactory reply was forthcoming from the consultants, who admitted that they did not undertake any engagements that were not requested. It is vital, though, that any master plan has to have full understanding of such externalities. No such studies were made, and there is no stakeholders report, they confirmed.
A clear case of putting the cart before the horse.
Nobody can be blamed for asking: is this mix and match master plan just a wild goose chase? Is it just to appease someone? Is it just to alienate the public from other matters? Is it in the national interest? And does all this have political blessings? Is this really happening in our Malta? Is there any conscientious politician personally deeply worried by this pie in the sky?
Nobody can be blamed for asking: is this mix and match master plan just a wild goose chase?
During a previous meeting of the Parliamentary Committee, representatives of the Environment and Resources Authority, who also sit on the PA executive committee, said that they are as much a stakeholder as the general public. But during the last sitting of the Parliamentary Committee their silence dwarfed all the vociferous demands of the worried stakeholders. Any church mouse would have envied such silence.
The Environment Minister has recently been quoted as saying that “Labour has provided the country with “strong environmental credentials”. If the above are part of these “strong environmental credentials”, then God help Malta. The minister might just as well have tried to convince us that a circle is square.
This Paceville master plan has concretely served to prove how correct American political satirist PJ O’Rourke was when he said: “No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed, and love of power.”
Let’s have a master plan for Paceville by all means. But a professional one where every stakeholder can say that he was part of the decision.