Santa Luċija may be known for its wide walkways, pedestrian roads and front gardens, but residents fear the quaint village built in the 1960s is falling victim to the development frenzy and Malta’s rule of loopholes.
The latest example is a resident taking up a stretch of pedestrian road to build themselves a garage, with the assistance of the Local Council, the Lands Authority and the Planning Authority.
“Pedestrian streets and cul-de-sacs were included in Santa Lucija to give a sense of space and beauty. These should continue to be enjoyed by all – both in present generation and in future generations. These public areas should be maintained not hived off to individuals,” a concerned resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Lovin Malta.
Here’s how the PA’s case officer described the project before his recommendation to refuse permission was overturned by the Planning Board:
“The proposed garage for private cars within the designated front/side garden area is objectionable in principle since such semi-public space is intended to remain free from any structures. Moreover, landscaped front gardens constitute an important defining element with the distinct character of the area, which was comprehensively designed and developed as part of the Santa Lucija Housing Scheme.”
The case officer also described the existing passage way as a “pedestrian link” which should include more landscaping in line with the original Housing Scheme.
“Moreover, the proposal was also objected to by Transport Malta in view of safety reasons with respect to vulnerable road users including pedestrians using the said passage way. Since the proposal is objectionable in principle, and since the suspension period of this application has elapsed, the proposed development cannot be favourably recommended.”
Sure enough, the application was approved anyway and the garage is currently being built.
The PA’s case officer report did not go into any detail about the ownership of the land, and questions sent to the Lands Authority have remained unanswered.
But Santa Luċija Mayor Chairmaine St John told Lovin Malta that, as far as she knows, the residents had been requesting this piece of land in Triq il-Petunja since 2012 and eventually a tender was issued for its purchase.
The Lands Authority refused to provide any details on the case, including the price and the process involved. A Freedom of Information request has now been filed to obtain the information.
The only question the Lands Authority answered was one about another site in Santa Luċija which faced a similar fate, this time in Triq il-Prinjol.
“With regards to Triq il-Prinjol, the parcel of land sold by the Lands Authority is not part of a Schemed Road as indicated in the South Malta Local Plan, but rather a residual piece of land between the boundaries of two separate dwellings,” a spokeswoman for the Lands Authority told Lovin Malta.
Residents who spoke to Lovin Malta are horrified by what they are witnessing, arguing that Santa Luċija’s charm is being destroyed in a process that involves political patronage.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. So, if one resident can buy part of the street, the neighbouring residents have the right to buy the rest of the street as well. Will that leave any public open space?”
“Those who bought part of the street can argue that they followed the required legal process. But what is wrong is not the process but the principle. They followed the legal process after someone in power decided to sell off part of the street. Did local and central authorities concerned uphold their duty to protect this public area? Or did they find legal loopholes to sell off a slice of street?”
“When public open space is sold off to be turned into someone’s garage, the value of other people’s property in the area will likely fall. Because the value of property is raised by having surrounding public open spaces.”
Lovin Malta asked the mayor if she had a message for the residents who are concerned that the local council does not care about open spaces and roads being sold for development.
“The local council’s priority is the environment,” St John said.
What do you think of this case? If you witness similar stories, write to [email protected]