Conflict of interest in review of height limitation policy – FAA
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Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, in a statement this afternoon has responded to MEPA’s Review of the Height Limitation Adjustment Policy for Hotels in Tourism Areas.
The policy to increase the height of hotels is being extended across all Malta and Gozo, with the exception of Urban Conservation Areas, Outside Development Zones and ridge edge sites.
FAA said that this extension has been recommended by a committee made up solely of MEPA officials and tourist industry operators claiming that their hotels are uncompetitive due to size limitations.
“This begs the question of how the top resorts in the Mediterranean like Taormina are so successful while maintaining a low-rise hotel profile.”
FAA said that it maintains that adding to the congestion of tourism areas in peak season could ultimately damage Malta’s image to potential tourists. “The review objectives fail to recognise that Malta has a finite carrying capacity and therefore needs to focus on quality rather than quantity.”
“The objectives fail to take into account the community’s interests and the negative impacts on the urban environment. The involvment of those in the hotel industry in drawing up these policy guidelines points to the highly unethical attitude being adopted in the current redrafting of land-use planning policy,” FAA said.
The NGO pointed out that “it is counter-productive to attract more tourists in peak season when they are rushed through crowded museums and have to cope with chaotic roads, long waits for crowded buses and packed beaches. This contradicts the past focus on boosting low-season quality tourism to ensure year-round employment in the tourism industry.”
While the provision of conference facilities requires one or two additional floors, the MEPA document proposes an unlimited number of additional floors for four/five star hotels. “Urban jungles and more cranes, noise and dirt do not attract tourists to Malta; it is better quality hotels and services, upgrading of tourism areas and year-round cultural activities that are needed – all measures that accommodate tourists while respecting residents,” FAA added.
Echoing the stand taken by the Chamber of Architects, FAA raises the question of discrimination in favour of one sector of the tourism industry. The NGO said that “within months of its launch, the original scheme limited to 4/5 star hotels in tourist areas has been extended to 3-5 star hotels all over Malta and Gozo.
“Owners of aparthotels, guesthouses and even tourist villas are now demanding to add floors, while developers are asking why offices and shops are being denied this privilege. A Pandora ‘s Box is being opened, and just as the scheme has already been extended, the Authorities could cave in to other sectors of the economy.”
FAA stated “the scheme excludes hotels Out of Development Zone or in the Urban Development Area however since these areas lack a buffer zone, high-rise hotels will inevitably impact adjacent ODZ coastline areas or UCAs, as has happened at Balluta and Spinola. Places like Marsaxlokk and Gozo are set to lose the very character that draws tourists to our islands. What has become of Eco-Gozo?”
“Assurances of environmental safeguards and mitigation of impacts on the infrastructure ring hollow,” FAA said. “How will increasing road, parking and public transport capacity as well as increased provision of water, electricity and drains for high-season tourists be handled? Who would foot the bill to enable hoteliers to increase their revenues?”
“It is an eye-opener that our two main political parties have agreed on one thing: residents do not count. The policy had acknowledged that tourism areas are already over-developed and congested by traffic. The review ignores the reality that increasing densities with conflicting activities will lead to increased tensions, further eroding the quality of life for residents, and undermining touristic appeal.”
FAA continued by saying that the Review of the Hotel Height Limitation Policy “does not oblige hoteliers to improve their surrounding environment but will increase overshadowing of neighbouring properties, depriving them of light, air and solar rights, and lead to a more fragmented urban skyline.”
“Adding to the congestion of tourism areas in peak season could ultimately damage Malta’s image to potential tourists. The review objectives fail to recognise that Malta has a finite carrying capacity and therefore needs to focus on quality rather than quantity.
“The objectives fail to consider the community’s interests and the negative impacts on the urban environment. The involvment of those in the hotel industry in drawing up these policy guidelines points to the highly unethical attitude being adopted in the current redrafting of land-use planning policy,” FAA concluded.