The Citizen Betrayed by Government & MEPA
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“In its insistence on approving the Fort Cambridge project before the completion of some of the most essential environment studies, MEPA and Government have betrayed the citizen” maintains Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA). In spite of the EU’s imposing an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) when MEPA had arbitrarily decided that an EIA was not necessary for this massive development, key elements like the Traffic Impact Study have not been included.
Thus Government had two options; it could either gratify investors immediately or wait a few weeks for the conclusion of the Sliema Traffic Impact Study and implement any improvements that the study recommended re. the Fort Cambridge project that will affect the health of Sliema’s residents all the way up to Savoy.
It was shocking to hear the new MEPA Chairman say that he found no problem in issuing a decision on the permit before the conclusion of the Traffic Impact Study, the most crucial part of the EIA. This means that this unique chance to reduce toxic traffic emissions related to this project, vehicle exhaust which increases the incidence of asthma, cancer and heart disease in residents, is being cavalierly thrown away.
MEPA should also have requested a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) as repeatedly requested by the Sliema Local Council. In a totally residential area like Tigne, an SIA was essential to properly assess how increased traffic, dust, wind, vibrations, shading etc will affect residents. Other developers whose projects will not bring as much traffic into a residential area were obliged to carry out such a study, so why should GAP, the developers of this site, have been exempted?
Furthermore residents, professionals, as well as a geological study of nearby Ghar id-dud, have all indicated the presence of caves in the site area. Early excavations have already caused problems of subsidence due to cracks in the rockbed, for which reason works to shore up the site had to be expedited. In view of this, FAA maintains that it is extremely irresponsible of MEPA to authorise a high-rise project without any geological study to identify underlying caves and rock faults on a site which may be compromised and which may pose future risks.
Ultimately however, the onus lies with Government. The project brief issued on public land violates countless clauses of the legally-ratified Local Plan which says : “There is pressure in localities such as St. Julian’s and Sliema to increase building heights. However, many of the coastal belt residential areas are over-developed and thus require a restrictive approach to further development.” and again: “MEPA will refuse development permission for any proposed development that is likely to have a detrimental effect on strategic views and local views” To have issued a project of these dimensions in view of the above shows that Government callously valued the revenue from the sale of the site over the health and well-being of its residents in a total abdication of its duty to protect its citizens. The insistence to approve this project in haste, when studies might have reduced the negative effects on residents, together with the astounding approval of the Mistra Towers and the non-rescinding of the Safi Supermarket permit all show that in spite of the countless promises on sustainability, the recent election has changed nothing.
The discovery of the press release announcing the approval of the permit before the hearing was held just confirms that public consultation is a sham and that it is still developers that rule this country due to a weak political class who are not prepared to stand up to them.
Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar