You can’t just ruin people’s lives

Serious people in construction, people who think long-term must surely want to have public backing, rather than be seen as villains

You can’t just ruin people’s lives. It is not just a matter of destroying neighbouring property, but also about noise pollution and air quality
You can’t just ruin people’s lives. It is not just a matter of destroying neighbouring property, but also about noise pollution and air quality

When I bought my maisonette in Swieqi years ago, the surroundings were very different. There weren’t many properties in the vicinity, it was very quiet and it was a small community. Even until 15 years ago it was mostly Maltese families who filled in the few empty spots of the locality.

Today the story is different. Now there are more buildings and new landmarks, and AirBnB ventures and language schools, which also account for the rising demand for apartments.

Many communities can relate to this building explosion. We now have less space than before. Some people have lost a view. Local populations have swollen.

We’ve come to accept this. Perhaps we can say that, over the decades, things should have been done differently. We could’ve used space more efficiently. We could have designed better. Planning never really took beauty and flair into it. But we’ve come to accept this. However, there are times when we don’t accept this, when we say the ‘everything goes’ mentality cannot be tolerated.

This week was one of those times. For the umpteenth time, families lost their homes and had their lives thrown into disarray because of a neighbouring construction project. The human tragedy was stark.

Construction projects are not experiments where you find out what is happening when it’s done and over with. Proper construction, engineering and science, are well-oiled processes used throughout the world. When a situation indicates the need, precautions are taken.

Everything is taken into context. So I cannot understand how these construction tragedies keep on happening time and again.

The intensity of construction in Malta is down to population growth. However, irrespective of this, we need to make sure that people don’t have their lives ruined for months, or even years, because of a project. This is especially so when there are measures which can be implemented to alleviate the problems that a project invariably creates.

I think the steps taken by the Prime Minister send a clear signal that this is not on. Malta is an understanding country, where, I think, people genuinely acknowledge the need for property construction, but it is not, and should not be, the Wild West.

You can’t just ruin people’s lives. It is not just a matter of destroying neighbouring property, but also about noise pollution and air quality.

There are measures that can be taken to ameliorate nuisance, but I suspect that they don’t feature in the budgets of a project often because they are seen as pointless and extravagant. This is what must change.

Those ‘pointless’ things, which actually protect the rights and wellbeing of residents, need to become law. Not guidelines. Not recommendations. But clear, well-defined legal obligations that, if not followed, result in serious proceedings. I do not believe such requirements would put a dent into the finances of construction businesses. In fact, I believe well-meaning construction companies should lobby for them, simply because they need the country to support their sector.

Serious people in construction, people who think long-term, must surely want to have public backing, rather than be seen as villains.

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