This proposal has a huge significance for the protection of sites of natural importance and historic and heritage buildings against speculation, inappropriate use, or simply neglect. It would mean the national assets of natural or cultural value would be registered in a more transparent fashion, ownerships would be established, and inventory would be tied within the public domain by act of parliament. Subsequently this means that such inventory could not be conceded to private individuals or for commercialization without approval of parliament itself, nor can government make inappropriate use of national assets such as assigning historic places without stringent provisions for their use.
The government is the largest land owner in Malta and it is vested with most of the built heritage sites on the island and of our dwindling unbuilt spaces. This proposal if approved by Parliament could be the first step towards preventing the abuse that went on in the past with the misappropriation of land on the coast or the concession of heritage sites for unfitting purposes, for example. It also means that the public registry will be more accessible and transparent. Din l-Art Helwa would favour the immediate passage into Public Domain of all government property that lies in Out of Development Zones especially in the face of the Revision of Boundaries for development, the protection of all remaining unbuilt coastal areas, and the drawing up of an inventory of unused government buildings in the heritage cores of Valletta and the Three Cities.
The achievement of the Bill’s objectives, says Din l-Art Helwa, will however be very much dependent on the support of all political parties. If it did achieve this, it would be a first step towards bringing government’s management of the environment in line with the Constitution’s Article 9 which determines that the State will protect the nation’s artistic, cultural legacy and the landscape, so far a very much ignored requirement by all governments in the last five decades.
29th April 2015