[WATCH] Study on Malta's economic needs should guide planning policy revisions - Ian Borg

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg says on Xtra he will be calling for research exercise on Malta’s economic needs which will form basis for planning policy updates

Transport Minister Ian Borg and PN MP Marthese Portelli were guests on tonight's Xtra
Transport Minister Ian Borg and PN MP Marthese Portelli were guests on tonight's Xtra

Ian Borg has reiterated his criticism of the controversial 2014 rural policy, questioning the relevance of the 2006 local plans which are still being implemented to this day

Borg said he planned to call for a study to identify Malta’s economic needs when it came to planning, and to subsequently use the information gained to guide policy updating.

Speaking on TVM’s Xtra on Thursday, the Infrastructure Minister emphasised that current planning and development policies needed to be updated.

“We are using the local plans which were approved in 2006. Are these still reflecting the current needs of the country?”, Borg asked, pointing out that he had, in fact, called for the policy to be revised.

Borg, mirroring comments he made earlier this week, said that he has been aware of the flaws in the 2014 rural policy, which has been recently thrust into the spotlight following the granting by the Planning Authority of a permit for a controversial Qala development. Following an outrage, the permit was later renounced by the developer, Joseph Portelli, who had applied for it.

It remains, however, valid, as it has not been revoked by the PA.

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The minister said he would be calling for a research exercise to be carried out in order to identify the contemporary needs of the Maltese economy so that the planning policies could be updated accordingly.

He underlined that it was also necessary for new policies to be drawn up, including ones dealing with architecture, Malta’s skyline and the island’s landscape.

His Nationalist Party counterpart, MP Marthese Portelli, agreed with Borg on most points, with the Opposition’s infrastructure spokesperson reassuring the public that, despite her recent resignation from the PA board, she would continue giving a contribution to the drawing up of new policies.

Portelli also justified her resignation from the PA board, claiming that, whenever she pointed out any issues or raised any objections for a particular application, these would be routinely ignored or dismissed. She argued that her position would now actually become a stronger one.

“I tendered my resignation after I had assured myself that, despite the fact that I will no longer have voting power on the board, my voice will not be weakened but can get stronger,” she said.

Portelli insisted she would no longer be bound by current laws which prohibit PA board members from discussing pending applications in public.

Instead, she would be free to attend board hearings as a member of the public, and immediately draw attention to any potential issues.

Nevertheless, Borg criticised the Opposition’s decision to leave Portelli’s seat vacant instead of appointing a replacement.

This, he said, had resulted in a situation where the public will be unaware of where the Nationalist Party, “which puts itself forward as the alternative government”, stands on future projects.

Portelli retorted by pointing out that, as Opposition spokesperson, she would still be laying out her party’s position on any development projects, before calling out for reform within the PA.

“Each member of the board should undergo a training and information session about the current policies”, Portelli insisted, arguing that some of the members of the board are unaware of the policy details, and as a result, unsure as to how they should vote.

Portelli also called for “more focus on meritocracy” with regard to the selection of board members, noting that the field is a complex and intricate one, and that the individuals chosen should be one who truly understand the subject matter.

She signed off by calling for more unity in order to better tackle a topic which is of the utmost importance to the country.

“We need to work together to see what is truly in the country’s best interest”, Portelli said, adding that “everyone must be on board”.

Meanwhile, the Transport Minister confirmed that the government will be evaluating both the mistakes, as well as the positive developments within the sector, before continuing to offer solutions to the Maltese people.

“The Nationalist Party does not have the credibility to put themselves forward as the ones to solve the problems with planning”, he said.