The idea that we can just go on building everywhere is plain stupid. There’s no nicer way of saying it. We’re building ourselves out of this country. Noise, dust and cranes everywhere, traffic, more traffic, allergies, claustrophobia, psychological stress.
This model, based on non-stop, irresponsible non-‘development’, has clearly failed us all. And yet the Planning Authority seems to think it’s a great idea to build ourselves to insanity. Isn’t it meant to be planning development, not allowing it to run wild?
The Planning Authority is fully aware of the rich biodiversity of public land in Pembroke. You can read all about it on the website of the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), once the PA’s bedfellow.
There are three major issues we are dealing with right now in Pembroke: the application by Chiswick School to build yet another school, a handful of applications by owners to demolish their houses to build five- or six-storey apartment blocks, and the building of a bypass road from St Catherine’s High School to Paceville via Triq il-Mediterran, Pembroke’s most emblematic road, which separates the village from the coastal garigue.
The building that goes on in the built-up areas of Pembroke will have a direct and an indirect impact both on the quality of life of residents and those who visit Pembroke regularly and on the Special Areas of Conservation recognised by Maltese law.
Pembroke is a residential area that was never meant to become home to 11 schools and training centres. We’ve welcomed these schools. But it doesn’t take a genius to realise that our small, residential village already has more than its fair share of schools, training centres, sports complexes, large centres for various children and youth organisations.
We also have hotels, a military base and training grounds with a firing range, a reverse osmosis plant and a former rubbish dump very close by that regularly reminds us it’s still alive and stinking.
Pembroke is a residential area that was never meant to become home to 11 schools and training centres
The untouched garigue in Pembroke, including the rocky coast, watercourse and surrounding karst, is mostly protected by Natura 2000 site legislation. The public land Chiswick have set their sights on is actually part of this garigue and should be protected in the same way as the rest of the Natura 2000 site.
It’s up to Chiswick School to make a more informed, more sustainable, more educated (and educational) choice.
The population of children nationwide has decreased dramatically, and Chiswick might want to look at buildings that are no longer being used, giving them a new lease of life.
Bulldozing more of our precious countryside, contributing hundreds of cars and other vehicles to our already-saturated roads, is not an option. If they do need a new school, it’s time for Chiswick to do some serious homework and make sure they take into account the impact it will have on people and the environment.
Chiswick are proposing their school on public land, our land. This large stretch of garigue has not been transferred to Chiswick and the school has no rights to the land.
As Dean Hili, mayor of Pembroke, who opposes this proposal, has said, anyone can apply to develop third-party land, and this has been the case for many years.
This means that the land is still owned by the government and the school still has no right vested in the land in question off Gabriel Henin Street.
A request to obtain this public land, our land, would have to be sanctioned by our representatives in Parliament.
Many of us who live in Pembroke or visit regularly to enjoy the sea, garigue and wooded areas, and make use of the many facilities the village hosts, expect our representatives and the relevant authorities to shoulder their responsibilities by protecting our rural and urban environment.
This is what our Pembroke local council is striving to do. We are duty-bound to demand this protection of our shared natural heritage, and they are duty-bound to do what’s best for the community and for the common good.
It is their duty to reject applications for unnecessarily tall buildings of five or six storeys that will choke Pembroke forever.
It is their duty to reject plans to turn Pembroke into another air polluted and noise polluted traffic zone with the proposed junction and bypass to Paceville.
And it is also their duty to keep public land public and include the garigue on Henin Street, earmarked for more non-development, in the Natura 2000 protected site where it belongs.
As citizens of this proud country, we demand no less.
Adrian Grima is a writer and lecturer in Maltese literature at the University of Malta.
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