President Myriam Spiteri Debono called for building industry professionals to ditch “egocentric” interests and protect arable land in Malta. 

She was speaking at the fifth edition of the Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning Awards, where she presented the President’s Award to Richard England. 

Spiteri Debono’s comments come as Żurrieq residents are ramping up a fight to change the local plans that allow 11,000 square metres of virgin land to be developed. 

Times of Malta reported how the government gave its consent for a stretch of arable land that is still actively being tilled in the rural area of Tal-Bebbux to be rezoned to allow the construction of residential buildings. 

The planning control application, filed by Francis Spiteri of Tal-Karmnu Construction Company, seeks to build a road through the farmland that will open it up to further construction. The majority of this land is Government property. 

While the Lands Ministry has replied to the outcry against the application by saying the land would only be developed ‘if it benefits the community’, it has not explicitly said that it would withdraw its consent for the application. 

As the land in question was rationalised into the development zone in 2006 - which saw it being removed from outside of the development zone - activists are calling for the government to amend the local plans, as it has recently done for Marsascala, Qala and Bulebel. 

In her speech, Spiteri Debono said that while Malta’s rich architectural history had evolved from the grandiose influences of Knights-era design to simpler and sleeker buildings that centre on practicality and functionality, the profession is still, at the moment, underscored by a philosophy that centres on the common good. 

“New regard must be had for the sustainability of other aspects and the protection of arable land merits priority,” she said. 

'Recommendation of Sofia inquiry must be taken aboard with utmost seriousness'

Spiteri Debono also urged professionals to prioritise the betterment of society in their work.

“Of paramount consideration, over and above ego-centric interest, is the mental and physical health of the population,” she said. 

The loss of life and limb of industry workers have been “bitter experiences”, she continued, and the industry must strive to uphold rigorous safety standards. 

That is why the recommendation of the Jean Paul Sofia inquiry must be taken on board with “utmost seriousness” she said. 

Authorities and stakeholders should together strive to draw up laws and regulations to have an effective system of inspections and controls, ensuring the highest standards and safety measures.

“These regulations should be aimed at making their adherence to more easily regulated, checked, and honoured in the observance,” Spiteri Debono said.

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