President George Vella on Saturday appealed to the Planning Authority and other regulatory authorities to be “agents of change” and provide solutions to the current state of the environment.

“If need be, radical decisions should be taken to stop practices that are not giving us the desired results. This needs to start with immediate effect,” Vella said while addressing the fourth edition of the Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning (MASP) awards organised by the Planning Authority.

Vella noted the development of “a sad and dangerous head-on meeting of two trends” that are working against each other: the efforts of a sizeable group of interdisciplinary teams that create excellence and a much bigger group of architects and engineers that are simply contributing to an ever-increasing sprawl of impersonal soulless construction, taking up all available open spaces.

The President noted that Gozo is a prime example of this overdevelopment and warned that this uglification will eventually result in a negative effect on tourism and on small communities, which are gradually losing their sense of identity. This is short-termism that may be damaging the country in irreversible ways, he said.

Vella welcomed recent legislation to ensure more competencies and controls of construction companies and to introduce more awareness of the need for more security for construction workers themselves.

Yet, he said that enforcement across the board has to be seen to, not least and most importantly to avoid a repetition of tragic events of victims of buildings collapsing due to faulty workmanship or as a direct result of uncontrolled work practices taking place in building sites adjacent to people’s homes.

With regard to the projects nominated for the MASP Awards, the President said that it is reassuring that, should there be the will, the Maltese were more than capable of creating safe, functional, and aesthetically beautiful projects.

“I was pleased to note that low carbon footprint materials and passive environmental measures were considered for all the categories awarded this evening. Of particular interest were projects of public open spaces that create the public safe green areas within our densely built-up villages. The recovery and rehabilitation of historic gardens for this same purpose is also commendable. These are places that help restore the individual’s well-being,” he said.

Vella also saluted the memory of architect Martin Xuereb, who is renowned for his landmark works on architectural projects across Malta and Gozo, as well as in many other countries, and encouraged young professionals to take inspiration from his works and aspire to achieve projects of the highest standards as he did.

The President presented the President’s Award to architect Conrad Thake.

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