MaltaToday survey | Towers make Malta uglier, 68% say

FULL DATA • The survey shows 56% seeing some positive advantages in high-rise development when asked to state one.

james
James Debono
28 June 2016, 8:24am
An overwhelming 79% agree with a moratorium on high-rise projects until a master plan for such developments is formulated
An overwhelming 79% agree with a moratorium on high-rise projects until a master plan for such developments is formulated

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A MaltaToday survey conducted over the past week shows that more than two thirds of the Maltese think that high-rise towers in general make the country uglier, irrespective of where these are located. 

The survey also shows that three-quarters of respondents would not like Malta to resemble Dubai with regard to its physical appearance.

The greatest concern on high buildings is their impact on views and landscapes, followed by the perception that these are claustrophobic or alien to the Maltese identity.  

While in their majority the Maltese dislike high-rise buildings, the survey shows 56% seeing some positive advantages in high-rise development when asked to state one. The advantage which was most mentioned is that such buildings are perceived to occupy a smaller footprint of land than horizontal developments and thus help reduce pressure on unspoilt land.

When presented with a list of localities where according to present planning policies high-rise development can be allowed, 44% insisted that such development is unacceptable anywhere. An overwhelming 79% agree with a moratorium on high-rise projects until a master plan for such developments is formulated.  

The survey also shows that environmental NGOs enjoy the trust of 52% of the Maltese. On the other hand the two major parties enjoy the same level of trust on environmental issues – just 36%. 13% opted for Alternattiva Demokratika (10%) and the new Democratic Party (3%).

MaltaToday’s survey shows that more than two-thirds of the Maltese think that high-rise towers will make Malta uglier. Only 14% say they enhance Malta’s beauty while 15% think that their visual impact depends on where these are located.

The survey shows that the appreciation of high buildings is lowest among those with a tertiary level of education. Among those with a post-secondary level of education 76% think that such buildings make Malta uglier, a view shared also by 71% of those with a university degree.

But among those with a secondary level of education the percentage that thinks so falls to 60%. The survey shows that opposition to high-rise buildings is strong in all age groups, but younger respondents were less categorical. In this category 26% replied that the visual impact of high-rise towers depends on where these are located.

PN voters in 2013 were also more likely to have a negative opinion of high-rise developments. While 62% of PL voters think that high-rise towers make Malta uglier, the percentage rises to 77% among PN voters.

Respondents also overwhelmingly reject the idea that Malta should become more like Dubai with regard to architectural design of new projects. Only 13% think Malta should become more like Dubai. The allure of Dubai, which was touted as a model by the Prime Minister in a speech in June 2014, is strongest among Labour voters, older respondents and those with a secondary level of education.

Respondents were also asked to state which is their greatest concern about high-rise buildings. Only 29% did not express any concern about high-rise buildings. The greatest concern is the perception that these have a negative impact on the landscape, that these are claustrophobic and that these impinge on the Maltese identity. Other concerns were expressed on shading and the impact of such projects on parking, traffic and that these could add too much pressure on the country’s infrastructure.  

But while rejecting high-rise buildings, 56% could at least mention one advantage of high-rise developments. The greatest advantage is that such buildings are perceived to occupy a smaller footprint of land than horizontal developments and thus help reduce pressure on the countryside. Other advantages include economic growth and creating more liveable space. Curiously the views from high-rise towers is seen as an advantage by 4% of respondents while 3% expect more leisure facilities.

When presented by a menu to choose from the localities identified for high buildings in a planning policy approved in 2014, 44% replied that none of these localities is ideal for high-rise development. Sliema, which includes Tigné, is seen as the locality most ideal for high-rise development by 20% of respondents, followed by Qawra (12%), Marsaskala (11%) and St Julian’s (9%) – all of them localities skirting the coast. 

The survey also shows an overwhelming majority (78%) supporting a temporary suspension of high-rise projects until a national master plan regulating such developments is approved. Independent MP Marlene Farrugia (DP), Alternattiva Demokratika and a number of environmental NGOs have proposed a moratorium on high-rise projects. The government has on its part insisted that a plan is already being formulated to regulate high-rise developments in Paceville. 

52% trust eNGOs, only 36% trust major parties

Respondents were also quizzed on their perception of environmental NGOs and on the environmental credentials of political parties. While NGOs enjoy the trust of the majority of the population, only 36% trust the two major political parties on environmental issues.

The survey shows that PN voters and tertiary educated respondents are more likely to trust eNGOs. While only 50% of PL voters trust these NGOs, 77% of PN voters trust them. And while 61% of respondents with a university degree trust eNGOs only 51% of the secondary educated sector think likewise.

Curiously, the survey shows that the Labour party enjoys a one-point advantage over the PN with regard to being trusted on environmental issues, despite the concerted attempt by the PN to strengthen its green credentials. The difference falls within the

survey’s margin of error but suggests that the party has not capitalised sufficiently on the government’s shortcomings on green issues.

The PN’s low score can be attributed to the fact that 14% of PN voters opt for either AD or the PD as the parties they trust most on environmental issues. Only 6% of PL voters did likewise. PN voters were also more likely not to trust any party on environmental issues.

The survey also shows Labour’s appeal on environmental issues weakest among respondents with a tertiary level of education. Among those with a university degree only 7% trust Labour while 29% trust the PN.  

Interestingly a tenth of respondents trust AD most in environmental issues, which reflects the greens’ historical commitment to green issues, while 3% trust the Democratic Party which has been recently set up by Marlene Farrugia, backed by a number of green activists who have also been vocal on environmental issues.  

Among those with a university degree 17% trust AD while 7% trust the Democratic Party. Within this category AD is more trusted on green issues than the Labour Party.

The survey also shows that air quality, transport related issues and land use dominate the environmental concerns of the population. The survey confirms a growing perception that Malta is over built. A combined 42% expressed a concern on too many buildings being approved, on the loss of ODZ and green areas, on dust from construction and on building heights. 21% expressed a concern on traffic and exhaust from cars while 15% expressed a generic concern on air quality. Only a tenth expressed a concern on rubbish and dirt in the streets.

72% think property is more expensive 

The survey confirms the perception that property is becoming more and more expensive. 72% think that property prices have gone up in the past two years and only 25% think that property prices have fallen. 44% think that prices have risen a lot.

But significantly, in what could be an indication that a large number of Maltese are involved in the property business, 22% think that an increase in property prices is a positive thing for them.  

The survey also shows that while 38% think that having more foreigners buying property in Malta is a positive thing, 36% think that the increase in foreigners buying property is bad for Malta. Moreover Labour voters are more likely to perceive the sale of property to foreigners positively. While only 33% of PN voters perceive the acquisition of property by foreigners positively, 51% of PL voters express the same opinion.

Methodology 

The survey was held between Monday, 20 June and Thursday, 24 June. 602 respondents were contacted and the survey was stopped after a 400 quota sample was reached. Margin of error +/-4.9 percentage points. 

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...