Stop. Stop the rot. Stop the destruction, the uglification, the desecration and the massacre of our towns, villages and country.

Let us save what there is left to save.

Everywhere one looks one sees overdevelopment with no consideration of aesthetic beauty and definitely no planning.

Why not stop this maddening rush to build every open space that is left? Can’t we stop this crazy frenzy for a short while as a national plan on development is studied and published?

Yes, development cannot stop. It feeds thousands.

However, can we substitute ‘uglification’ for ‘beautification’? We need developers, we need entrepreneurs, we need architects and engineers. Yes, but we need innovative people with an eye for beauty, imagination and creativity.

I live in Sliema. I lived for 30 years in Marsascala. My grandparents, who I visited regularly, lived in Windsor Terrace, Sliema. My parents resided on Tower Road. It was an elegant Sliema adorned with beautiful buildings, a neat and orderly skyline and beautiful façades in competition to make the place a ‘wonder’.

So was Marsascala, where we had a summer house for 40 years ‒ beautiful, quiet, peaceful, mostly rural land.

Not so now, unfortunately. Paceville should read ‘Wildville’. Sliema (sliem u paċi) should read ‘chaos’, Msida yacht marina: ‘Anarchical Creek’; Marsascala ‘uncivilised disorder’.

With a broken heart, I still treasure the beautiful houses and the orderly skyline and fascinating façades that no longer exist. They are today only seen in photos to admire or despair.

Their place has been taken by unorthodox pigeon-hole high-rises, for the most part without any aesthetic beauty.

In St Julian’s, one watches hopelessly and helplessly at the destruction and uglification of the whole area – ‘one huge confusion’: narrow, dark streets; noise pollution galore; no privacy concerns for the few still remaining residents; an infrastructure strain and a potentially negative impact on the property value of residents due to a significantly altered area character and to decreased liveability due to increased traffic and noise.

As if this destruction and monstrosity were not enough, we now witness the takeover of public areas at The Strand, Sliema. Pavements are taken over by boxed ugly enclosures, with residents having to daily battle their way to their supposed property.

Public land is given away as encroachments and appear haphazardly with absolutely no planning or aesthetic consideration. The once beautiful promenade has now become a hodgepodge of gabbanas, tables  and chairs – no planning, no regard for pedestrians and families with young children. Shamefully, these are no longer factors taken into consideration.

Concomitantly, the degeneration of the Tigné area is taking place. What once started as a clean project has now become an overbuilt high-rise massive building with a square that has lost its open character. Every corner is taken over by high-rise pigeon-holed buildings; the massive Cambridge building adjacent to it and the Fortina Hotel add to the overbuilding and contribute to heavy traffic.

We have lost the love and pride for our country and its beauty. Our values have become money- Josie Muscat

To add insult to injury, the destruction of Qui-si-Sana area is next in line. Just imagine yourself, dear reader, living in an area with your bedroom overlooking an enclosed area. The Planning Authority unanimously approved the building of a 28-storey tower, a 10-storey hotel with a rooftop pool area, an 800-plus parking area with overlying retail outlets, two office blocks, an area for tables and chairs outdoors and an increase in daily trip generation by around 662 trips for a total of 3,188 trips and through one Qui-si-Sana entrance. The exit is in a residential area. There will be a 20 per cent increase in traffic in the Tigné area, a roof swimming pool and an events area. All in an enclosed space in the backyards of more than 500 residencies.

But hold your breath! A few metres down the road, the highest high-rise building has been approved: the Holiday Inn project. Of course, with the usual retail areas, conference halls, restaurants and whatnot. A few metres up the road, another massive construction – the Regina Hotel.

Malta’s Planning Authority chairman Emanuel Camilleri is reported to have told objectors that “projects would only be refused by the Planning Authority if they were in breach of established policies”.

So, what policies protect the common citizen? The citizen who has to fork out a considerable amount of money from his earnings to have a right (?) to fight for his privacy and lifestyle and against noise pollution’s effect on property value? The citizen (David) against the powerful, dirty rich, wanting to become even richer (Goliath)?

The citizen has been abandoned by parliament, by their representatives in the villages, by the authorities, regulators and by councils. All seem to be gagged and dazed. NGOs have, thankfully, now taken over the fight for our rights. In this day and age, money, not rights and obligations, prevail.

For citizens to fight for their rights, they have to engage lawyers, architects and engineers against hefty payments to draft reports and submit objections to the various institutions and bodies.

Our once beautiful Malta is fast going downhill. What’s the point of spending millions on propaganda embellishment if we are permitting destruction at the periphery, which is slowly but surely encroaching to the core of our beloved Malta?

We have lost our ‘nationalistic’ values. We have lost the love and pride for our country and its beauty. Our values have become money.

Meanwhile, we witness what once was a ‘wonder’ develop into a ‘monster’. What a real pity! We are fast approaching a point of no return – or are we there already? Stop, please stop.

Josie Muscat is chairman of St James Hospital and a former politician.

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