Paceville: Letter to Environment Committee MPs

Only Parliament has the power to ensure that any development projects are planned with the citizen at their very core

The fact that a master plan has been drafted, in itself is welcomed and is a step in the right direction
The fact that a master plan has been drafted, in itself is welcomed and is a step in the right direction

Below is a communication dated 31 October, which I sent on behalf of my family to the Environment and Development Planning Committee in view of the discussion due then on the Paceville master plan.

Hon. Franco Mercieca MP, Committee Chairman, Hon. Committee Members.

With reference to the Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday, 2 November during which the Paceville master plan will be discussed, we would like to share some thoughts from the perspective of residents in the area. We have read the master plan from cover to cover. Our family have lived in the area for decades, the first members of our family started living in the area in 1956 and still reside here to this day.

We have never resorted to writing such kinds of communication, however the situation that we find ourselves in warrants it.

We cannot deny that over the past years, development in Paceville has been sporadic and no efforts were made to ensure that development takes place within certain specifications and rules. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of buildings where commercial outlets have been allowed to operate in residential areas or areas very close to people’s homes.

Therefore, the fact that a master plan has been drafted, in itself is welcomed and is a step in the right direction. What is also positive, is the plan to upgrade the infrastructure that is so badly needed in the area: roads, sewage and water etc. Foul smells being emitted due to blockage in the drains are a common occurrence, just walk by Bay Street, usually in the morning. The present infrastructure cannot bear any further development without being upgraded. 

We need to keep in mind that the area that is included in the master plan, is a hub for all kinds of things, such as commercial and tourism activities, but is also a residential area.

However, there are a number of concerns/issues which we would like to list in no particular order which are not exhaustive and must be addressed:

- ‘Paceville’ in the master plan includes vast areas of St Julian’s, including St George’s Bay, Swieqi and Pembroke. These areas have never been considered or even included as part of Paceville.  This area includes where we live. 

- The outreach to the general public as well as to the residents in the area has only been through a slick, feel-good and strong marketing campaign. Planning Authority has not accepted to meet residents when the Local Councils have tried to organize meetings. This at least has been partly addressed through a meeting scheduled for 7 November. We question whether such a scale of a project only requires one meeting with the public; 

- The ambiguity in the plans, e.g. land reclamation is only mentioned once and not much information is provided. 

- The lack of understanding that the ramifications of this master plan which will not only affect Paceville and surrounding areas of Pembroke and Swieqi but also further afar, e.g. Madliena, Sliema, Gzira etc. 

- The fact that once this consultation period is over, a local plan will be designed and this will be presented as final and which cannot be revoked;

- The lack of a sustainable plan;

- The master plan states that this will take five years to build, this is very ambitious indeed. As Maltese citizens, we are not blind (or deaf) to what goes around us. The Pendergardens project has been going on for eight years and still has a long way to go; Mistra remains a ghost building; an unsightly hole is still present in Gzira, when this project was to start years ago; and Midi have not yet finalized the project of The Point or Manoel Island, etc. What will happen if construction starts and due to lack of funds this stops. What guarantees will be made in order to ensure that a master plan will be fully implemented and completed to the same standards and specifications of the original plans. 

- We are aware that following the Public Domain Act, the foreshore must be accessible to the public. This is something that the master plan seems to have forgotten;

- For the master plan to be built, a number of private properties need to be expropriated. This is at best illegal. Land cannot be expropriated by the government and given to the private sector. 

-  Where will €585 million come from, from taxpayers? Who will pay for the upgrading of the infrastructure? Should not the developers foot the bill. 

Yes, a master plan is needed for the area, but not this master plan. A master plan which looks at the area in a holistic way, which includes impact assessments on the environment, the social fabric of the area, infrastructure, geology etc. Finally, we need a master plan that has the Maltese people as well as the residents at heart and is not based on the developers’ needs only. 

We thank you for taking the time to read our concerns. Only Parliament has the power to ensure that any development projects are planned with the citizen at their very core. 

Anthony Gatt, Swieqi

Right of reply: Gambling licences

This right of reply appears with respect to the front-page story on MaltaToday, 30 October, ‘Mafia allegations in Maltese gaming: Authority says its oversight is ‘world-class’.

“Bet1128 is obliged to clarify any single accusation that is false and calumnious in its regard. The Malta Gaming Authority has our operation in good standing and has always carried out the necessary due diligence, notably by granting the company a licence. To put this into question would suggest that the MGA is unable to carry out its job properly, when the facts have always shown that Bet1128 is a solid brand that is fully in line with Maltese and European laws.

“Actions that damage the image and reputation of a company such as ours are without doubt in breach of the 95/46/EC directive and cannot be acceptable. The necessary clarifications must therefore take place without any prejudice to our legal right of redress.”

Editorial note:

The original print and online version of this article made an incorrect reference to other tenants of the company address to which Bet1128 was registered. The association was unintended, and there is no connection, direct or indirect, between Bet1128 and the tenants of the company offices in which it is housed. The error is regretted.

Former MEP’s Central Bank consultancy

I refer to the report “Former Labour MEP lands Central Bank consultancy” published on 23 October, 2016, wherein your reporter Tim Diacono announced a consultancy agreement between the Central Bank of Malta and Dr John Attard Montalto, which agreement came into effect on July 1, 2015 and effectively expired one year later, namely June 30, 2016.

As I only took up the position of Governor of the Central Bank after the expiry of this agreement, I informed myself about it before replying to clarify the context. Hence the brief delay. The bank’s Corporate Services division informs me that Dr Attard Montalto was indeed requested to undertake certain assignments, that the assignments were carried out to the bank’s satisfaction, that the bank was invoiced for the work and that the invoices were duly settled.

I am sure you will agree with me that your readers ought to know that – contrary to the impression given by Mr Diacono through the use of the present tense (“lands Central Bank consultancy”, “the Central Bank has employed”) – this is not an on-going sinecure.

My predecessor would certainly not have approved such an arrangement. Finally, it would have been easy for your reporter to contact our Communications team before rushing to publish his dated discovery.

Mario Vella, Central Bank Governor

Editorial Note:

The information pertaining to John Attard Montalto’s consultancy was obtained from a reply to a recent parliamentary question. As information in the public domain, the contract to a former Labour MEP was a matter of public interest.