[WATCH] PD to present ODZ document amendments in reaction to Opposition Zonqor Point motion

Democratic Party to put forth Private Members Bill to 'change the political direction' of Spatial Planning and Environmental Development Document, as opposed to 'cosmetic' and 'populist' Opposition motion         

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Massimo Costa
2 January 2018, 2:36pm
The Democratic Party will be present a Private Members Bill to 'change the political direction' of the Spatial Planning and Environmental Development document, following the Opposition's parliamentary motion for the Zonqor Point land to be returned to the public
The Democratic Party will be present a Private Members Bill to 'change the political direction' of the Spatial Planning and Environmental Development document, following the Opposition's parliamentary motion for the Zonqor Point land to be returned to the public
PD MP Godfrey Farrugia
The Democratic Party will be putting forth a Private Members Bill intended to ‘change the political direction’ of the Spatial Planning and Environmental Development document, which sets out the political direction concerning the use of Outside Development Zone land use until 2020.

In reaction to the filing of a parliamentary motion by the Opposition to have the land at Zonqor Point in Marsaskala returned to the public after the American University of Malta managed to attract less than 30 students in its first academic year, the PD said that since the lease of the land to AUM for a period of 99 years had been approved by parliament in December 2015, and considering that there has to date been no breach of contract, it wasn’t reasonable to expect the land to simply be returned to the people.

The land was leased on the condition that it be developed ‘solely and exclusively’ for educational purposes, that the project be completed by 2023, that public access be guaranteed, that only non-retail outlets be present on the site, and that no public guarantee can be given on AUM’s bank loans.

Moreover the government is allowed to ‘dissolve the grant’ of land if such contractual conditions are not meant. Other than this, there was no basis for parliament to retake the land, as the Opposition is requesting, the PD said. Indeed, such a retaking would have legal repercussions and create a non-credible public status for the government.

“PD is conscious of these difficulties and is of the opinion that solutions should never be cosmetic or call for populist politics. PD acknowledges that the rape of ODZ by successive governments (e.g. Smart City by PN), must be stopped once and for all,” the party maintained, and that is why it would be presenting wider and more far-reaching amendments to the SPED, as opposed to the Opposition more narrow parliamentary motion.

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[WATCH] Opposition wants Zonqor land returned to public after American University fails to attract students

The SPED, the party remarked, notes that the sustainable use of land in ODZ has not only reached a red flag (more so with the 2006 rationalisation), but when applied in the revision of Planning Authority’s policies and the granting of permits, the document has proved to be defective. It is also evident that the current SPED does not overrule development in protected areas (such as the Fuel Station Policy).

It is for these reasons that the PD is suggesting amendments to the SPED, whereby it is proposing that, amongst other things, the term ‘feasibility’, which is currently not legally defined, be substituted with ‘sustainablity’, which is legally defined. It also proposes that the narrow concept of development (economic) sustainability be broadened to include environmental and social sustainability.

“The recent debate on AUM has raised a number of eyebrows, and although PD firmly believes that tertiary education is a resourceful economical diversity which we must venture in, prime virgin land should never be un- scrupulously sacrificed for such projects,” the PD added.

The PD’s SPED amendment suggestions will give due consideration to Malta’s constraints and characteristics as a small island, for instance it would be keeping in mind that a plot of ODZ land, once built, is highly economically feasible and would see its price quadruple, however it would not be feasible for a social and/or environmental perspective.

Such changes in the SPED would mean that “the reasoned decision taken by PA during the planning stage of all ODZ applications (including AUM’s Zonqor Point) would guarantee a workable transparent and accountable mechanism that follows a stringent code of sustainable best practice even when the its sequential approach is adhered to,” the PD highlighted.

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Massimo Costa joined MaltaToday in 2017 as a journalist. He is a graduate in European Stud...