Rejection of Commissioner’s findings indicates that government has no intention of protecting the environment

December 4, 2013

Press Release

4th December 2013

Din l-Art Helwa has expressed its disappointment at the outright rejection by Parliamentary Secretary for Planning Dr Michael Farrugia of the report of the Commissioner for Environment and Planning following his investigation into the procedures that led to the granting of permits for the redevelopment of Mistra Village.   The Commissioner found that the NGO was justified when it instigated its request to revoke the planning decisions by Mepa that are to give rise to the monstrous scheme on the ridge at Xemxija.

Simone Mizzi, Executive President of DLH in a statement said ‘It is clear that the Secretariat in charge of Planning is not sensitive at all to the results such a development will have on the important national landscape at Mistra Ridge.  Even if he does not agree with the Commissioner’s findings, the least we would expect somebody in his position to say is that developments of such magnitude will be planned so as to be consonant with the landscape in the future.  Instead we hear that the rape of our countryside is justified because the developers have made a great investment in our economy. This justification now sounds like an old LP that is gratingly stuck in its socket and each time a piece of Malta disappears.  Worse still, there is forever silence from the very ministry whose sensitivity the country needs to count upon, and that is the Ministry for the Environment. If Planning has no sensitivity of nature within it at Mepa while its Environment Directorate is still constituted, I dread to think what is to happen when it is no longer there’.

Din l-Art Helwa is satisfied that the findings of the Commissioner were totally in line with those of the organisation and sticks by its stand.  Although ministries can use their power to bull their way over everything, said Ms Mizzi: ‘the facts remain clear: the planning parameters for the area were not followed, and a policy for tall buildings applied only in selective parts when it strictly called for no tall buildings on Xemxija Ridge.  Extremely serious adverse impacts such as that of the design on the surrounding landscape and that of traffic have been left unresolved.  These issues were the duty of the Major Projects Team to point out to the Board and for the Board to question but they were conveniently glossed over.   So how Dr Farrugia can say that all procedures were scrupulously carried out is beyond comprehension and gives rise to many questions about his direction of the Planning authority in the future.

Dr Farrugia’s answer for the protection of the environment is that enforcement will be stepped up following the new relaxed planning policies he is about to pass.  ‘We would like to suggest’ says Ms Mizzi, ‘that if these policies with all their numerous loopholes were not being launched, enforcement would not be necessary.  The question here is prevention not cure and the new laws should be put on hold till sufficient proof is given that they are necessary and all loopholes taken out.’

Din l-Art Helwa is studying the most appropriate avenue to follow for the Mistra case after this turn of events.  It states that, unlike the planning boards that act only in the interests of the developers, the organization will continue to act to protect the interests of the environment.

The organization urges all those who care for the environment to join it at the Protest March in favour of the Environment on Saturday 7 December at 10.30 at City Gate, Valletta.

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