A Birkirkara apartment block currently under construction, and which was the subject of a impassioned Facebook post about the uglification of Malta by former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, is actually the result of a policy enacted by the government he used to form part of.
Two weeks ago, Fenech uploaded a post shaming the architect and developer of the block for “destroying the streetscape and environment”.
The reason Fenech pointed to was the fact that the planned block will extend all the way out to the edge of the road, while the rest of the houses on the street all had front gardens.
The story was also reported by Lovin Malta yesterday, after residents got in touch and voiced their dismay at the works.
It turns out however that the building isn’t the only development not to have a front garden and extend all the way to the road’s edge. In fact, a development just three doors down from it similarly extends all the way out and it isn’t because the Planning Authority arbitrarily decided to grant a permit, as Fenech suggested.
The reason the permit was granted is that the road’s building alignment excludes front gardens, and it’s a result of changes to the local plans implemented in 2006 under a Nationalist government. Fenech was an MP at the time, but would go on to become a minister two years later after the party was reelected.
Rather than the Planning Authority (PA) having arbitrarily decided to grant a permit for the block to be built, its hands seemed to be tied as a result of changes made over ten years ago.
Of course, the implementation of this policy does not change the fact that a handful of houses have been squashed in between two large apartment blocks until they decide to demolish their homes.
But the former minister’s remarks do highlight the need for a review of our current planning policies, and perhaps more so, the manner they are implemented.
Government ministers have regularly justified controversial developments by pointing to the changes implemented in 2006, completely ignoring the fact that they are the only ones who are in a position to reverse those changes.
Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia has pledged to review the present local plans. One hopes that this will see the situation improve, though the apparent reluctance to do anything until this happens raises questions about how effective it will be.
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