The contribution of George Pullicino MP to The Times (June 16) sent through his communication coordinator, amounts to a poor attempt to mask the action of land speculators that have already started devastating Kalkara valley following sanction by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.
The minister's main argument in support of this devastation is that Kalkara valley had been earmarked for development since the 1960s. It seems that Mr Pullicino prefers to blindly abide to colonial and post-colonial planning decisions, while ignoring the immense changes that happened since then. His adherence to 1960s style of decision-making has effectively also rendered Mepa a redundant organisation.
Equally superfluous are the reports strategically commissioned by Mepa to justify the development of Kalkara valley. In my contribution (June 9), I referred in some detail to these contrived reports based on disputable environmental notions. Mr Pullicino preferred not to respond to my analytical criticism of these reports, perhaps to avoid discussion on the prodigal use of taxpayers' money to pay for reports of dubious quality commissioned by his ministry and Mepa. Despite the economic blight, this year the Environment Ministry spent Lm700,000 on commissioned reports!
In my contribution, I restricted my arguments to an objective and analytical discussion of the Kalkara development problem because planning decisions should not be politically charged. The PN administration thinks otherwise and is incapable of divesting decisions of national importance from the interests of its political lackeys.
Mr Pullicino's communication coordinator states that the negotiations on the development permit application included the exclusion of 10,000 square metres of developable land which is considered environmentally sensitive. However, he also confirms that "the decision was even more difficult because the land was owned by the family of a then Nationalist MP" (June 16). Mr Pullicino fails to add that the decision leading to this loss for the developer was also graciously compensated with more land granted in an area of even greater commercial value. A "difficult decision" indeed!
I believe that planning decisions should be impartial and should not be rendered, as confirmed by Mr Pullicino, as "more difficult" or more easy by the political complexion of the applicant. This also amounts to a travesty of planning principles.
Labour believes that land planning principles should be founded on a commitment to place social and environmental concerns at the forefront. This policy was translated to practice by our firm stand against the development of Kakara valley. We have been consistent with this stand when in government and when in opposition.
During the Labour administration, I participated in meetings with other Labour government ministers with the intent of saving Kalkara valley from development. Oddly, Mr Pullicino's communication coordinator (June 16) chastises me for not speaking out during meetings on the Grand Harbour Local Plan in order to "request a reduction of the building area".
Labour was working for a far more radical solution to save Kalkara valley than the half-measure suggested by Mr Pullicino's communication coordinator!
It is an irrefutable fact that during these meetings, Labour MPs contemplated two options, either to freeze further applications for development in the valley or refuse pending applications and compensate the applicants. Therefore, Mr Pullicino's suggestion that Labour was in compliance with the proposed development of Kalkara valley is false and should be added to the growing catalogue of falsehoods emanating from his ministry.
Mr Pullicino ought to analyse his record of inconsistency on the Kalkara valley development. He has come to the defence of the development of Kalkara valley but when the PN was in opposition its youth organisation called Forum 21 had published an article (Il-Mument, November 3, 1996) which branded the developers of Kalkara valley land speculators and concluded that it was cynical to call the destruction of Kalkara valley "development".
Where was Mr Pullicino then to defend the "development" of Kalkara valley that will now eradicate what Forum 21 called the last "green lung in the Kalkara area"? Why did he not chastise these "green" PN youths? Why did he keep his mouth shut then?