[WATCH] White Rocks first to be transformed into ODZ land, Bernard Grech pledges

Bernard Grech tells developers' lobby that the perception that developers dictate the agenda of political parties has to be eliminated

PN leader Bernard Grech meeting with the MDA committee on Wednesday (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
PN leader Bernard Grech meeting with the MDA committee on Wednesday (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Nationalist leader Bernard Grech said the 350,000sq.m White Rocks area in Pembroke will be the first to be turned into an ODZ area if elected to government.

The PN has pledged to add 50,000sq.m of public land to ODZ areas every year.

Grech and other PN members met with the Malta Developers Association (MDA) at the PN headquarters in Pieta’ on Wednesday. He thanked the MDA for their contribution to the country's economy but insisted that every development should cater for the wellbeing and the mental health of the citizens. 

Grech argued with the lobby that the perception that developers dictate the agenda of political parties has to be eliminated.

“There is a perception out there that developers dictate our agenda. There’s no denying that parties require funding, especially us in Opposition, but we need to eliminate this perception that we are receiving millions from you,” Grech told MDA. 

“Instead of building in ODZ areas we need to regenerate the urban areas of the country. A more efficient use of material and buildings which are less impactful on the environment are needed.” 

Grech touched upon the PN proposals in the election manifesto, which he said promote environmental, social responsibility and good governance (ESG) across the board.

Grech admitted that the first-time buyers' schemes enacted by the PL government were positive and helped young people purchase their first property.

He stated the PN pledge that ODZ areas require a two-thirds parliamentary majority to be developed, creates a level playing field and balances development and environment protection. 

Michael Stivala, president and secretary-general of the MDA said property is the biggest investment in one’s life and argued it should be protected.

"One of the main targets of the MDA is to protect the village cores. Schemes for the regeneration of Valletta and Gozo have been most successful thanks to our pressure."

He praised the government's incentives for first-time buyers and the tax schemes for property in Urban Conservation Areas. 

"I appeal to your party to take care of the industry. Investors seek progress but also a better environment, as a good quality of life attracts investment. We emphasise that ODZ areas are not touched but we also emphasise that incentives are offered," Stivala said.

"We want nothing in particular but a fair level playing field. We believe in competition but we ask that government allows us to work and reduce bureaucracy. Allow our dreams to become a reality," the MDA chief said.

He added that members of the association took great risks and appealed to the PN not to scare away development. “We require the support of politicians, both from the government and the Opposition." 

In his closing remarks Stivala admitted that improvements were required in the industry, both from an environmental point of view and also on health and safety protocols.

Journalists were invited for the first part of the meeting, afterwhich talks continued behind closed doors.