Dad, political sociologist, local councillor, drummer from Malta

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sliema, as we want it to be

MICHAEL BRIGUGLIO

Malta Today - Tuesday, June 21, 2011
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/blogs/michael-briguglio/sliema-as-we-want-it-to-be


The pedestrianization of Bisazza Street is a clear example of the lack of direction of the Nationalist Government. Ministers Austin Gatt and George Pullicino, who are respectively responsible for public transport and for the pedestrianisation of Bisazza Street, have been unable to coordinate their effort regarding Arriva’s claim to have buses passing from the street. As things stand, tax payers will likely foot the bill for their blunder, if Arriva is to be compensated for having its buses pass from elsewhere.

Anyone who believes in the importance of public transport would immediately realise that buses should pass through the Qui-si-sana and Tigne' seafronts, thus making it easier for residents of these areas to have access to public transport. The buses shall be of Euro 5 standard, meaning that they are the least polluting diesel buses on the market, though there are less polluting buses which use cleaner types of fuel.

Given that Bisazza Street has now been pedestrianized, it should remain as such. Having vehicles, of whatever nature passing through this road will reduce the amenity for commuters. At the same time, however, traffic at the Qui-si-sana and Tigne' seafronts has increased. Are transport authorities penalizing those whose cars, trucks and buses are emitting fumes above permitted levels, possibly because of dubious methods of fuel?

In the meantime, a few metres away, the Townsquare proposal is haunting Sliema. Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party is objecting the proposal, which includes a 23-storey tower, amongst others.Once again, Sliema residents are being offered another development similar to what we have at Tigné Point and Fort Cambridge.

Studies commissioned by the Townsquare proponents show that the development will result in further shading of parts of the Qui-Si-Sana promenade, the sea and the rocky foreshore and will have a major impact on the landscape, as is the case with the other nearby development referred to previously.Besides, a revised environment impact study confirmed that Townsquare will increase air pollution and thousands of cars in an already congested area. Indeed, the study projects an additional 4,430 vehicles in daily traffic in Qui-Si-Sana, increasing peak flows in the area from the present 24,444 to 28,874 vehicles. This will not only help deteriorate people’s health and increase traffic jams but will also possibly put Malta in infringement of EU directives on issues relative to the quality of air. In this regard, MEPA is legally obliged to ensure that the air quality limit values enforced by the Ambient Air Quality Directive are not exceeded.

Sliema Local Council is totally silent on this proposed development. Perhaps it will speak after MEPA approves the project. But it will then be too late. Or perhaps those opposing the proposed development will emerge victorious. Time will tell.

Other parts of Sliema are not immune to the Local Council’s slumber. For example, we are yet to hear the official position of the Council on the worthy proposal of the Sliema Residents’ Association to schedule the extensive gardens at Villa Bonici. We are also yet to be informed whether Sliema Local Council has noticed the disproportionate development at Exiles. The Council had all the time in the world to act consistently with its previous position and officially appeal against the development. But it did not.

Yet apparently, judging by voting patterns of most Sliema residents, this is Sliema as we want it to be. With all the talk of whether the PN should be conservative, liberal or what ever may win it the next election, the elephant in the room seems to be missed. At the end of the day we have a Government and Council which are more often than not subservient to the interests of big business. This subservience is both ideological, in that the PN believes in the god of overdevelopment, as well as structural, given that the PN is financed by big business interests.

Michael Briguglio, a former local councilor in Sliema, is Chairperson of Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party

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