Legal action is set to be taken against the government’s recent extension of the regularisation scheme to allow developers who built on sites that were partially in Outside Development Zones to be able to pay a simple fine to legalise the irregularities.
While the original 2016 regularisation scheme only accepted sites within development boundaries, the new scheme refers to sites encroaching on ODZ and includes illegal developments that go against established policies.
Moviment Graffitti’s Andre Callus this morning announced legal action is to be taken against the scheme, which came into action recently despite vociferous protests from NGOs and even the Chamber of Architects.
“The planning policies we have were written by developers for developers,” he said. “And instead of getting better, they are getting worse.
“We will not let it go and we will be announcing legal actions to stop the government from continuing to ruin the countryside.”
Recently labelling the scheme as “morally dubious”, Kamra tal-Periti had called for it to be “reconsidered in its entirety to mitigate its social and environmental impacts”.
Also addressing the issue at this morning’s national protest against overdevelopment, BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said, “A pardon was given to those who broke the law.
“They call it regularisation; I call it a pardon for their friends. If they want regularisation, stop the illegal construction and development now.”
Thousands swarm to Valletta
Thousands of people swarmed to Valletta this morning in answer to calls from NGOs to a national protest against overdevelopment.
Dubbed, ‘Xebbajtuna’ [We’ve had enough] the protest was organised by Moviment Graffitti, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Ramblers Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, BirdLife Malta, and Għawdix.
They have been calling the public to protest against rampant overdevelopment taking place across the country because, as they say, “behind this wave of environmental destruction lies a web of politicians and developers who have created a system that serves the profit of the few instead of the common good.”
This morning’s crowds stretched from City Gate to Great Siege Square, where activists were addressed.
Labour mayors take the stage
Two outspoken Labour mayors – Gzira Mayor Conrad Borg Manche’ and Qala Mayor Paul Buttigieg – were on stage to speak to the crowds. So were BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana, Moviment Graffitti’s Andre Callus and Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar’s Astrid Vella.
According to Callus, the Lands Authority, Environmental Resources Authority and the Planning Authority are “farcical” and work to support businessmen. He questioned why residents are always fighting against overdevelopment.
“We say this to developers: Despite your bullying, we will not be afraid of you. You have the power of money, we have the power of the people.”
He held the Prime Minister responsible for environmental devastation: “What is happening is not the result of carelessness from an individual in an authority, but of a political direction that sells Malta in the interests of the few.”
Asthma and obesity plaguing Malta’s kids
Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar coordinator Astrid Vella pointed out how Maltese children have the highest asthma and obesity rates in the EU with ever increasing buildings and vehicles and limited opportunities for outdoor activities.
“The Planning Authority,” she said,” “has become the Permitting Authority, doing everything except planning and preserving localities.
“The fact that the government refuses to conduct carrying capacity studies is evidence that they will continue to allow more construction.”
‘Greed and money before the people’ – Borg Manche
Borg Manche’, who is at loggerheads with his party over the proposed relocation of the Manoel Island petrol station to the nearby public garden, remarked how the country is choosing greed and money over its own people.
He referred to two Gzira cases he has fought: the development of Manoel Island and the fuel station relocation.
“On Manoel Island, people have been illegally evicted from land they have lived on for 16 years, due to a significant lack of authority on land issues,” Borg Manche said.
Borg Manche said that significant failures from the authorities were also evident in the case of the fuel station relocation, which the court of appeal recently threw out and ruled in Borg Manche’s favour.
He said that none of these authorities has shown a genuine effort to protect the interests of the people and the common good they are meant to represent.
“Every citizen is concerned about the direction this country is taking. They feel that there is no one willing to stand up for their rights in this area and that the PA, as well as the Lands authority, are not safeguarding their interests.”
Qala Mayor Paul Buttigieg called on the Prime Minister and MPs to expropriate Hondoq Bay, highlighting the importance to save Hondoq, a battle he has personally waged for close to two decades.
He said that the local council received a letter from developers requesting the removal of the reserved disabled parking spaces from Hondoq and the showers for divers.
“The developers still say that that land is theirs, and theirs alone,” he said.
‘Planning is collapsing’
CEO of BirdLife Malta Mark Sultana observed how the level of planning is collapsing, with public entities becoming more and more lenient and permissive to development.
“Who is protecting our ODZs? Who is protecting our valleys, the coast, the heights, the fields, and all the biodiversity that lives in them?” he asked.
He said that the PA, the Environment and Resource Authority (ERA) and the Lands Authority are not functioning as they should, and this has been proven by the courts are revoking decisions PA permits and decisions taken by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT).
Sultana appealed for planning policies to be changed and a reform is needed for the public entities responsible for managing these policies and other laws, to truly serve the common good.
“Finally, we request that those leading our country adopt an economic model, with the goal to improve the quality of life for all of us. These are justified demands based on social justice.”