Front Ħarsien ODZ welcomes positive commitments in PN policy.
Front Ħarsien ODZ said that PN’s new environmental policy proposes improved environmental governance compared to the current state of affairs, which is characterised by a governance deficit and lack of environmental sensibility.
Front Ħarsien ODZ added that it expects all political parties to have clear environmental policies. The PN environment document is positive overall but some other proposals require clearer commitments.
In particular, Front welcomes the fact that the PN has heeded the Front’s recommendations with regards to two thirds parliamentary approval of ODZ projects which will now be limited to project which have have been positively recommended by the Planning Authority and only following the conclusion of the full planning process.
“This means that ODZ projects which are recommended for refusal by the PA will not be given a new lease of life in parliament. Moreover the PN’s latest document makes no reference to a previous suggestion that ODZ projects are approved by simple majority in a third vote. In this way parliamentary approval will add an extra layer of scrutiny to normal planning procedures.”
Front thinks that greater emphasis should have been put in the document to address Malta’s economic over-dependence on tourism, real estate and construction.
The Front welcomed the PN’s intention to review the SPED to ensure that the protection of our countryside and ODZ leaves no room for ambiguity as is the case today, and in particular eliminate the concept of “feasibility” as a criterion for the take-up of vacant land. It would have been commendable had the PN devoted more time over the year it took to draw up this policy, to begin this review. In this way voters would have a clearer idea of the changes the PN intended to make. The same point applies to its proposal to review the MEPA demerger.
The Front also called on the PN to commit itself for a revision of the current development guidelines regulating rural development approved in 2014 which have resulted in the mushrooming of minor developments in the countryside as well as for a revision of policies allowing mega sized petrol stations in the countryside.
The Front also welcomes the commitment not to permit land reclamation projects for speculative purposes. But such a commitment should be extended to tourism related projects. The Front agrees that any other land reclamation projects will only be permitted within a framework for the spatial planning of the coastal zone and the marine area, as required by the SPED.
“One oversight in the new PN policy concerns the present government’s local plans. We demand a firm commitment from all parties to ensure that no land which is presently ODZ is included in new development boundaries.”
Rather than vague proposals on giving an “economic value” to publically owned ODZ land as suggested by the PN, the Front is calling for a firmer commitment to ensure that no government owned ODZ land is allocated for commercial development of any kind.
The Front is also calling on the PN to substantiate its proposed “zero-tolerance approach to illegal development, particularly that which is carried out in ODZ areas” by committing itself to reintroduce the clause in the 2010 planning law which precluded the PA from regularizing illegal ODZ development.
“The reintroduction of this clause is of a crucial importance as it would put an end to the build now, sanction later mentality.”
With reference to a past declaration by Simon Busuttil that he is no longer by past commitments to squatters in Armier, Front expects the PN to commit itself to restore this land to public ownership and to rehabilitate it as public open space. The Front also welcomed the emphasis given in the document to safeguarding agricultural land and to water management but called for a firmer stance against boreholes which extract unsustainable amounts for water, not just for agricultural purposes but also for non agricultural use including the production of mineral water.
While reminding the public that the Żonqor development is still in time to be refused by the Planning Authority, the Front welcomes the PN’s commitment to enter into talks with AUM in order to persuade them to give up the site in Żonqor and save the ODZ land from development.
“Of crucial importance is that episodes like that of Żonqor are not repeated in the future. The PN’s document is a positive step in that direction”