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Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar said today that it “reminds the public that no less than five MEPA public consultations close on Monday 30th September, ie: the Local Plans, the Policy for fireworks complexes, the policy for the development of fuel service stations and ancillary development, the Review of the Height Limitation Adjustment Policy for Hotels in Tourism areas and the Review of the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Policy.
“While each of these policies has wide-reaching and potentially damaging implications, collectively they will affect residents’ quality life and change the face of Malta as we know it.”
FAA added that it “recommends that the new Local Plans should actively encourage the creation of more public green space; on no account should more building be allowed in the countryside while the Rationalisation Zones should be reversed as Malta has the lowest rate of green unbuilt space in Europe.
“The designation of primary/secondary/tertiary town centres as commercial areas should be accompanied by the creation of green public space as well as traffic solutions that prioritize pedestrian/cyclist movements benefitting socialisation and retailers.”
“The cultural heritage, historic skyline and streetscapes of Malta’s towns and villages are to be preserved at all costs; restoration provides more work than normal construction,” FAA said. “The lack of height limitations for Valletta and the Three Cities is leading to abuse by developers while the demolition of old buildings is destroying the character and life of our traditional towns and villages that attract tourists to Malta.”
FAA pointed out that, “a buffer zone needs to be established around urban conservation areas which are being engulfed by a ring of tall buildings which obliterates the distinction between different villages.”
“Old gardens which serve as lungs in built-up areas need to be designated as protected green enclaves, especially in areas where MEPA has studiously avoided protecting such gardens which are targeted for mega-projects,” FAA said.
FAA said that it “calls for the withdrawal of the automatic right to a penthouse over all three-storey buildings which has fuelled the destruction of Malta’s streetscapes while increasing parking problems. The status of residential areas needs to be strengthened to prevent over-commercialisation that will make such areas unliveable. Allowing more construction aggravates flooding due to the lack of open ground that can absorb rainfall.”
“Raising the height of hotels and re-activating the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to allow more tall buildings will add to the urban canyon effect, trapping heat and air pollution which contributes to asthma, heart conditions and cancer.
“Decreased air circulation and natural light to neighbouring buildings can aggravate stress and depression. It is hypocritical to talk of Malta’s efforts in favour of Climate Change at international fora, while encouraging tall buildings that increase energy consumption for lighting and air conditioning while depriving neighbours of their rights to solar energy” FAA said.
“In addition to an inadequate electricity, water, sewage and road infrastructure, Malta lacks an efficient public transport system essential to successful high-rise projects. Most importantly our fire service is not equipped or trained for fire-fighting at great heights,” FAA said. “The Chamber of Planners had commented: “given Malta’s high vacancy rates, an increase in housing supply is no justification for tall buildings which are being promoted for speculative reasons. Tall buildings are expensive to maintain and the more residents in one block, the more disagreement is likely.” The Chamber of Architects response was also mixed: “formulas that work abroad may not apply to Malta.”
FAA stated that “Malta has 72,150 empty housing units therefore there is no need to build higher or outward; more construction will add to the glut of unsold buildings. This is not job creation but pandering to construction magnates, as short-term jobs in the construction industry will endanger long-term jobs in tourism.
“Failed development loans in an economic crisis could weaken our banking system and economy as happened in Spain and Italy. More taxes will be wasted to maintain water, electricity, drainage and road services to empty homes which amount to 9 times the size of B’Kara.”
FAA “questions the logic of deciding hotel height and FAR policies before the Structure Plan and Local Plans are concluded, and without serious studies to justify more development in these sectors.”
FAA concluded by saying that it “urges the public to submit comments and suggestions re MEPA’s policies by sending an email on LP2013@mepa.org.mt by Monday 30th September.”