Letters: 24th August 2014

Zbibu Lane: MEPA’s knight has a dull armour

A proposed monstrosity in the last remaining vestige of clean air in San Gwann has taken the form of a five-storey building amidst a sea of two-storey houses.

A darkening monster that will block sunlight, stifle the air, create additional traffic mayhem and generally dampen the surroundings at the expense of some 400 families.

The application made by the developer (more accurately speculator) stated, inter alia, that a ‘dilapidated’ farmhouse was to be brought down. This was, incredibly enough, ‘approved/suggested/recommended/accepted’ by the MEPA case officer in his report.

Let me regale readers with a bit of fantasy which only the likes of MEPA’s cohorts can dream of. In the initial case officer’s report, it was first stated that the farmhouse had vernacular architecture and had to be retained.

A while later the ignoramuses at MEPA came up with the following absurd ‘solutions’ for this 200-year-old farmhouse:

1.     Retain it intact and as is (note: as it indeed it should be); or

2.     Dismantle it stone by stone and rebuild it next to another existing farmhouse (laughable… a paint-by-numbers job. Come on guys, who are you kidding?). Incidentally, there are two farmhouses. One is still lived in to date and apparently the developer’s efforts at buying this farmhouse failed. It is the residence of an old established San Gwann family. So his building will have to go ‘around’ this; or

3.     Dismantle both farmhouses (What? One of them is private property, nincompoops. What gives you the right to even state this? Ah! You did not check, did you?); or

4.     Demolish (!) the 200-year-old farmhouse as it will now look out of place aside a ‘modern’ and ‘kerreja’ style ugly duckling building. Oh, and never mind that indeed there is still another one there... the one in which humans are still residing. Living and breathing human beings.

Dear reader, have you fallen off laughing yet? Brilliant MEPA. That is real logic. Warped, illogical, astoundingly silly reasoning. Proposing to demolish the private residence of an old couple still living in it. No wonder your “whole” report has more holes than Gruyere cheese.

And don’t get me started on the myriad other ‘oversights’ that have been scribbled in the report. Unexplained archaeological finds, cart ruts, shelter that was ‘missed’ and later ‘found’.

You, Mr Chairman and MEPA, have been well and truly conned. The application and corresponding permit have been, in my modest opinion, granted under ‘false pretences’ – despite your being warned.

The 200-year-old farmhouse is not dilapidated and here is the proof. Photos taken by me inside this farmhouse. I went on the roof, and you do not stand on the roof of a so-called dilapidated farmhouse.

Now will you put a stop to it? Now will you investigate? Will you stand up and be counted for the gentleman you are, Mr Chairman, and demand explanations?

Revoke this permit. Restart the procedure, take into consideration all these ‘strange’ issues and perhaps you will one day have a monument in some square.

MEPA permitting, of course.

Stephen Saliba, San Gwann

The need to act at White Tower Bay

I read with pleasure Mr Schembri’s letter about the need to safeguard the dune remnants at White Tower Bay (ir-Ramla tat-Torri), which, as he rightly points out, represent the best such remnants on the island of Malta, being second only to those at Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo in terms of extent.

Way back in 2001, as part of my undergraduate University thesis, I took the initiative of preserving the White Tower Bay dunes since I was shocked the first time I visited the site at seeing it being used as a car park and camping site during summer. I took the initiative of applying for funds with UNESCO and managed to obtain a small sum for Nature Trust to install a chain and link fence all around the dune.

The fence was installed and subsequently repaired several times, over four successive summers along with the installation of educational signs on site, which were routinely vandalised, and holding talks about the importance of the dune for the Mellieha community at the Primary School of Mellieha. The site was surveyed regularly, especially during weekends, and trespassers were routinely reported to MEPA.

The dune remnants regenerated and recovered, but the elation was short-lived, since, once the funds and Nature Trust’s involvement fizzled out, most of the chain-link fence was carried away, and parking on the dune itself is currently a common practice once again, unravelling years of painstaking conservation work. I have written to MEPA on numerous occasions about this sorry state of affairs, soliciting them to invest resources to safeguard the site, to no avail.

Ironically, White Tower Bay represents the dune system which served as the last haunt of a species of marram grass, which was bulldozed over, and thus completely extirpated from the islands, when the road meandering around the dune was opened way back in the 1980s. Seems like we have learned very little since then.

Alan Deidun