eNGOs Flimkien għal Ambjent Ahjar, Din l-Art Helwa, Friends of the Earth(Malta) and the Ramblers Association of Malta were extremely dismayed that Prof Victor Axiaq, the ERA Chairman and the main environmental voice of the board was not present at the hearing last Thursday. Although valid reasons were given, no mention of this was made beforehand, which would have enabled the eNGOs to ask for an adjournment – especially since these were such crucial hearings.
Furthermore it was shocking that while Prof Axiaq’s comments regarding the Mriehel project were presented by PA Board member Dr Timmy Gambin, the same member failed to read out Prof Axiaq’s comments on the TownSquare project to his colleagues on the board. This raises many questions as to why Prof Axiaq’s comments were only given to one colleague, instead of being sent to the PA Board Secretary as per standard procedure. Why were the Mriehel comments read out but not those on TownSquare? A clear explanation for this non-disclosure needs to be provided.
In the Mriehel case all Board members except for Ryan Callus and eNGO rep Annick Bonello voted in favour of a project at Mriehel which was added to the FAR policy illegally, after the closure of public consultation. It was also established that the photomontages were presented in a misleading manner. The TownSquare case characterised by inadequate or non-existent studies on infrastructure, social and retail impact was approved by Hon Joseph M Sammut, Dr Timothy Gambin, Dr Desiree Cassar, Mr Matthew Pace, Ms Jacqueline Gili, Dr Ivan Tabone and Mr Joseph Brincat.
The eNGOs cannot fail to mention that the standard of debate at the Planning Authority has plummeted to standards that have not been seen for years, characterised by intolerance towards objectors and the public and lack of access to environmental information. Intimidation and sarcasm in such fora is used by those who lack sound arguments or conviction of the validity of their stand and is to be deplored.
11th August 2016