PN Propose Enshrining The Right To A Healthy Environment Into Malta's Constitution
Also: protection of ODZ, skyline policy, and better architecture
Simon Busuttil claims that our "common home" (i.e. Malta's built and natural environment) is under threat, in his new environmental proposal. Entitled A Better Quality of Life for You, the document whistles the same tune that Lovin Malta heard last year when we joined Busuttil on a drive around the island. That the current government has allowed a steady decline of the country's environment, and that the PN is ready to try and fix it.
In this new proposal, Busuttil declares that the current government has not done enough to protect Malta's environment, and despite more funding and better laws in place to protect it because of the country's accession into the EU, our built and natural landscape has been in decline.
The proposal, which was put together by a team of specialists with Simone Vella Lenicker – President of the PN General Convention 2016, Idea-Ambjent – as its lead author, outlines a series of drivers which the Party would put into action should they take over in the next election.
So what are the main things to look out for in the proposal?
There's a hell of a lot covered, but three big ones are standing out to us.
1. A new Skyline Policy and stricter ODZ protection
The proposal cites the Sliema Townsquare project, and the Paceville masterplan as specific examples of problems with current planning regulations. These examples are referred to as major players in the "uglification" of urban areas (supposedly interchangeable with the term "Dubai-ification" which Busuttil coined during our interview with him). The PN, on the other hand, propose to develop a countrywide skyline policy which will ensure this kind of thing doesn't happen.
They also talk about paying closer attention to the protection of Outside Development Zone (ODZ) areas, claiming that "both main political parties made their share of mistakes but it is now time to draw a line and stop further degradation once and for all".
With the amount of public outcry on over-development taking place over 2016 and into the new year, the Party will undoubtedly be held to account on these points should they get the opportunity to put their plan into action.
2. Better Architecture
The proposal makes a dig at cheap, ugly architecture recently being green-lighted for the sake of saving a buck, and obviously sings the praises of the success of the City Gate and Parliament building projects. It proposes a new National Architecture Policy, claiming that Malta is one of the few countries in the EU not to have one, which will make sustainability and holistic design its focus.
A tall order, but one that could make a huge impact to the islands and maybe provide some relief on the protest front.
3. A constitutional amendment
The Party proposed that the right to a healthy environment is enshrined in the constitution. They speak about the fact that Malta is the only country not to be meeting our international commitments with regard climate change, as well as the need for greater focus on the restoration of the voice of environmental protection in the planning process.
They propose this constitutional amendment as part of a massive strategy that stretches to 2050:
"Agenda 2050 sets out a path that we and our children can follow over the next decades right through to 2050. And we will entrench our commitment to the environment and quality of life into our Constitution, so that we will bind future Governments and no future Government will be able to undo it".
A bold proposal, if not just for what it would signify in terms of Malta regarding the natural and built environment as the 'toppest' priority, for the fact that so far – it really hasn't been paid enough attention at all.
The 84-page proposal document can be read in full here, and it does cover many other aspects addressing the built and natural environment. In her speech at the launch of the proposal, Simone Vella Lenicker said of the spirit of the document:
"This really is a policy document which reflects what people expect out of the politicians. [It] places the individual at the centre, and seeks to achieve a better quality of life for each and every one of us. And it proposes to do this by involving the public in policy-making, because it is important that each one of feels that they have a part to play, however small, in achieving a better environment".
Well, all we can do is watch this increasingly heated space. We do hope that, whatever Party does come to power, a more principled and dogged approach to environmental issues is taken.