‘Planning Authority has let Malta down’ – Archbishop

Archbishop Charles Scicluna hits out at Planning Authority after approving controversial developments, questions who will defend Malta from those who took a solemn oath to defend common good

Archbishop Charles Scicluna
Archbishop Charles Scicluna

The Planning Authority let Malta down after approving the controversial development of a 38-storey tower in Sliema and four interlinked towers which in Mriehel, Archbishop Charles Scicluna said.

In an opinion piece for the Malta Independent on Sunday, the Archbishop blasted the Planning Authority for its insensitivity towards the visual impact of the “cement monstrosities” that will take over the country’s skyline, and quipped on who would defend Malta from the people who took a solemn oath to defend the common good without fear of favour.

Comparing developers and businessmen to Midas - the Greek mythological king whose wish to turn everything into gold was granted, only for him to later curse his greed – the Archbishop insisted that if the country’s overdevelopment continued, the country’s beauty would be ruined and developers would be left with nothing but their money.

“Some developers and businessmen have Midas in their mind when they gloat on the high-rise project the Planning Authority has recently approved,” he said.

“I wonder whether they [businessmen and developers] realise that once they ruin our landscapes and turn our cityscapes into concrete jungles, they themselves, their children and their grandchildren will only have their money to set their eyes on. They will have to eat and drink their gold. But at what price? The price is for all of us to pay. They lace their pockets with gold and ruin the beauty of our island which is our common heritage,” he continued.

Scicluna’s opinion piece – which was fittingly entitled “The Midas Curse” – was penned in reaction to the Planning Authority’s recent decision to approve the controversial construction and development of a 38-storey in Sliema and four interlinked towers that will dominate Mriehel’s skyline.

Hitting out at the Planning Authority for “let[ting] Malta down”, the Archbishop took the “insensitive” Authority to task for ignoring the visual impact of the “cement monstrosities on the soft rambling contours of our countryside and traditional townscapes.”

“Shame on the government authorities that chose to include Mriehel at the last moment in the list of areas earmarked for high rises without giving civil society the opportunity to voice any sort of concern. Who will defend us from those who took the solemn oath to defend the common good without fear or favour?” Scicluna argued.

The Archbishop also insisted that developers can still “save” Malta without the need to “uglify” Malta in the process.

“Stretches of our vintage towns like Hamrun are crying for redevelopment … why not invest in projects that respect our common heritage? … The Planning Authority has let Malta down. You may still choose to opt for restraint and save Malta. Will you still eat and drink your gold?” he continued.  

Residents who spoke to MaltaToday warned that skyscraper would ruin the Sliema skyline, aggravate traffic and parking problems, and will damage the drainage system and electricity network. On a similar vein, the approval drew condemnation from a group of environmental NGOs who accused the Planning Authority for ignoring expert advice and for not basing their decision on comprehensive studies.

Moreover, on Friday, the Church Environment Commission accused the Environment and Resources Authority of allowing itself to be “taken in the developers' confidence game,” and voiced its concern at the granting of permits for high-rise buildings, arguing that “the common good is not receiving the priority it deserves.”