Budget 2024: Vague reference to land reclamation projects with no specific sites mentioned

Budget reiterates commitment for 80,000sq.m of urban green spaces

Ħondoq ir-Rummien (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Ħondoq ir-Rummien (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

As was already the case last year, the Finance Minister made reference to plans for reclaiming land from the sea without providing any hints about the locations of these potentially controversial projects.

In the previous year, Clyde Caruana mentioned meetings with experts to explore "projects" aimed at enhancing the environment and adding value to the country. The next step involved further studies to determine the economic and financial feasibility, as well as the social and environmental impact of these projects.

In this year's budget, Caruana once again talked about the identification of projects that not only "respect and improve the environment" but also contribute "added value" to the country. Caruana mentioned that experts have been analysing potential interventions for these undisclosed sites over the past months. Eventually, this will lead to the submission of several development applications by the relevant authorities following a national discussion on these proposals.  

Land reclamation has been on the government’s agenda for the past five years with leaked studies conducting by the Environment and Resources Authority in 2018 identifying the coastline between Xgħajra and Portomaso as the best location for such a project. 

The budget speech also refers to plans related to the development of an airstrip in Gozo for which a planning application was presented last year. The Minister also referred to local plan changes aimed at ensuring that Ħondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo is protected from development.

With regards to planning the budget vaguely hints at a “revision of policies related to aesthetics” aimed at protecting streetscapes and giving greater importance to design in the planning process.

Regarding urban greening projects, the minister mentioned the creation of a new square next to the Msida church, which was part of an already approved application for a flyover project in the area. He also referred to various initiatives by the Project Green agency, including the regeneration or creation of 80,000 square meters of green open spaces, which are expected to include 5,000 trees.

These projects encompass the family park at Bengħajsa, Ġnien iż-Żgħażagħ in Gudja, a dog park in Ħal Safi, a Green Campus in Mosta, the extension of San Klement garden in Ħaż-Żabbar, and the regeneration of Ġnien Spencer in Blata l-Bajda. Upcoming projects include the regeneration of Serenity Garden in Santa Luċija and the family park in Marsaskala.

The speech also mentioned ongoing works related to the conservation of valleys, with a focus on water retention structures such as dams and the restoration of over 6,000 cubic meters of rubble walls in Bidnija.

In terms of water conservation, the government announced an extension of a grant scheme introduced last year to encourage families to invest in home water purification systems. This initiative also helps reduce the use of plastic water bottles. The grant for water filtration systems covers 40% of the purchase price and installation cost, with a cap of €100.

The budget reveals that Malta currently has only 372 charging points for electric cars. The Minister reiterated the commitment to increase the number of charging points to 1,200.

A renewed scheme for large-scale solar power installations carried out by the private sector is expected to generate enough energy for 3,650 households.