Masterplan for Marsa and Grand Harbour needed, Church Environment Commission says

KA emphasises that developments need to be socially friendly, sustainable, environmentally responsible and should improve quality of life of residents

The Church Environment Commission has emphasised the need of a masterplan for Marsa and the inner Grand Harbour area
The Church Environment Commission has emphasised the need of a masterplan for Marsa and the inner Grand Harbour area

The Church Environment Commission (KA) had suggested the drawing up of a masterplan for the Marsa and inner Grand Harbour area, saying that this would allow area to reach its full potential, given the opportunities and risks it faces.

In a press release, KA said that the plan should be created based on a strong public consultation process.

“During the second half of the 20th century, the area acquired a reputation as one of the most heavily polluted areas of the country. With the shrinking of activity around the dockyards, the closing down of the Marsa Shipbuilding Company, and most recently, the decommissioning of the old power station, new possibilities have been created for another great transformation of the region,” it maintained.

It said that there were socially friendly, economically sound and sustainable, environmentally responsible and quality of life improving directions which the masterplan could possibly take, while some other directions were less so and driven by the drive for short-term financial gain.

"The potential of the area for creative regeneration is difficult to overestimate,” the Commission highlighted, “The vast stretches of land formerly occupied by the Marsa Power Station and by Marsa Shipbuilding each enjoy long water frontages, with already established aligned piers and mooring facilities, which are valuable and inalienable public assets”.

“The decline in pollution that has resulted directly from the cessation of the activity of these two industrial plants has also created new hope for creating a cleaner environment.”

The KA noted that certain key decisions that had already been taken gave “cause for concern”, maintaining that, rather than “piecemeal” planning which wasn’t geared for creating the best possible environment in the area, it would have been better to have a masterplan for the area in place from the start.

It mentioned that knocking down the main Marsa Power Station B turbine hall without any public consultation on the future of the site, and when there were several calls for it to be preserved, was one example of this.

Moreover, it highlighted that “the introduction of a new heavy industry in the form of oil-rig maintenance has created new inconveniences for the residents of Senglea.”

“The projected multilevel junction near the Addolorata Cemetery will not only have a severe aesthetic impact on this outstanding neo-gothic cemetery, but may also generate new forms of ghettoisation and stigmatised space.”

The KA said it believed that development planning in Malta should strive to become an exercise in making the “common good” the primary public policy consideration, rather than placing it on the back-burner to accommodate special interests.

Touching on Valletta’s status at 2018 European Capital of Culture, the Commission emphasised that given Marsa’s proximity to Valletta, the right kind of development in the area was “a must”.

“There is the potential here, with the right vision, will, and policy, to transform the area from one of the least desirable and most problematic parts of the country, to one of its most vibrant and attractive nodes characterised by green lungs, waterfronts dedicated to public enjoyment, and mixed uses including sustainable and affordable housing,” it asserted.

The “commendable” projects drawn up in 2016 by architecture and engineering students in the University of Malta’s Faculty for the Built Environment could be consulted in the drawing up of the masterplan, the KA suggested, adding that it believed that after years of abuse due to unsustainable decisions, Marsa residents deserved development which upgraded their quality of life.