Updated | Ombudsman asks that all Pembroke road project plans be published

Former independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola wrote to the Ombudsman over his concerns on Infrastructure Malta's plans to upgrade the Regional Road-St Andrew's road network 

The planned makeover of the road infrastructure network; inset: Alan Saliba, Commissioner for Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman
The planned makeover of the road infrastructure network; inset: Alan Saliba, Commissioner for Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman

Updated at 6:15pm with response from Infrastructure Malta

The Ombudsman has asked Infrastructure Malta to make all project plans on Pembroke's road infrastructure public as soon as possible and for the government agency to give a response by not later than 10 October 2019.

READ ALSO: Plan for road-widening to link Paceville tunnel, but unavailable to public

In a letter to Infrastructure Malta, the Ombudsman stated that it was not accepting Infrastructure Malta's reasoning for not publishing the relative documentation, with the reason cited being the fact that the project is still in an inchoate stage and that there are no finalised documents to be published.

"This is not a good reason to keep plans secret from the public. Following an investigation of the particular file, it seems that the Planning Authority has received diverse finalised documents from Infrastructure Malta so that these same documents were used by the PA to consult with various public entities," the Ombudsman wrote.

It added that the documents available lead to a full application which would eventually be accessible to the public in any case.

Infrastructure Malta: four new tunnels and other upgrades
Infrastructure Malta: four new tunnels and other upgrades

"It's unjust that the public is only given a few days to present its objections to the Planning Authority when it could very well be informed with any progress made on a national project of such importance," the Ombudsman wrote, adding that the government agency should publish these documents in the name of transparency and the protection of environmental rights.

The project was first announced in May of this year with a public consultation launched on plans to develop four new tunnels and the reconstruction of St Andrew's Road to mitigate traffic congestion.

Indpendent candidate Arnold Cassola said in a statement that he had written to the Ombudsman on 11 September of this year to investigate the agency's witholding of information on the project.

"As a Swieqi resident who suffers from asthma as a result of emissions caused by continuous traffic and construction dust, I am asking you to investigate and compel the arrogant directors of Infrastructure Malta to publish the site plants and drafts of the road-widening and tunnel excavation planned in the area, drafts that are so far still secret," Cassola had written, adding that such a project could affect the quality of life of thousands of residents in the area.

"The behaviour of Infrastructure Malta is absolutely disgusting and unacceptable, to treat residents like mosquitoes and to keep things hidden from us. We're not living in Medieval times anymore where the feudal tyranny does what it wants and leaves us with morsels," he told the Ombudsman.

Infrastructure Malta says it's following the rules

Infrastructure Malta is following the applicable processes according to the planning laws in order to be able to attain permits necessary for the Pembroke-St Julian’s connection, the agency said in a letter to the Office of the Ombudsman.

"After announcing the project, Infrastructure Malta submitted its development application to the PA. On 6 June, the agency sent the draft plans necessary so that the PA can make them available to the public via its online system of public consultation.

Infrastructure Malta kept responding to every call for information and every demand for documentation from the PA and other statutory authorities involved in this process,” the letter said, adding that the government agency at no point attempted to keep things secret.

Infrastructure Malta said that it even published a detailed design on social media, intended to show the public the new roads and four tunnels proposed for development to improve the route of the arterial roads in Madliena, Pembroke, Swieqi and St Julian’s.

“Infrastructure Malta immediately started meeting with local councils and other concerned entities, including residents. The architects involved are having various meetings with entities and individuals and inviting suggestions. All this despite the consultation process not having even started,” the agency insisted, adding that it had not met with Cassola because he had not asked for a meeting and that it had no objection to the PA publishing the relevant plans.