Environmental NGOs and Attard residents have raised doubts about the “real intentions” behind the touted Ta’ Qali national park project.

They maintain that commercial interest and concrete have overridden nature and that the park flies in the face of the concept of recreational space.

The government’s plan is to double the size of the area, with an additional 200,000 square metres of land turned into open spaces – the size of 60 football pitches. Intended to be completed by 2022, the €20 million park is also meant to include a lagoon.

The project has just been greenlighted by the Planning Authority. But Attard residents are already urgently requiring the Infrastructure Ministry, which trumpeted the plans that even include cycling flyovers, to suspend works until its concerns are addressed.

Din l-Art Ħelwa and Flimkien Għal-Ambjent Aħjar have poured cold water on the project.

DLĦ president, Alex Torpiano, asked if the concert venue was the reason for a massive underground car park and if it was a good idea to have “such a big excavation when dumping was such a major issue”.

Both NGOs expressed reservations about the car park, which would not encourage cycling to the area, while public transport was not being promoted.

Doubts were also shed on the need for an ‘elevated’ cycleway, prompting Torpiano to wonder whether the decision was “really related to the concept of a national park or to something else”.

The plans have also driven the NGO to question if the park would be a space to relax or just an expanse of turf – with its implications on watering and limited biodiversity – to hold picnics between events.

“Instead of focusing on one-off events for 25,000 people, should it not provide facilities for informal sports or leisurely walking, jogging and yoga?”

Coupled with the fact that the industrial area at the edge of Ta’ Qali was being proposed for more commercialisation, it was “obvious” the vision of this national park “is different from ours”.

Does it really benefit the public trying to escape a congested urban area?

While welcoming the regeneration of green areas, FAA said the proposals raised doubts about the real intention behind the “ostentatious” project.

“Does it really benefit the public trying to escape a congested urban area, already blighted by enough concrete and flyovers,” it asked.

“The concept of any park incorporates the idea of wellness, fitness and awareness of nature. The extra noise, air, light and visual pollution will not improve quality of life, quoted as one of the project’s aims, along with ‘economic well-being and social mobility’, whatever that actually means.”

Linking open spaces by concrete ‘boulevards’, “wide enough to land a small plane”, as well as a camp site and car parks for hundreds of vehicles would not encourage wildlife and ecological habitats, it lamented.

“Rather than grandiose, constructed parks, accommodating commercial activities, Malta needs smaller recreational areas within reach of more urban dwellers, offering a more uplifting experience and surrounded by the quiet and therapeutic effects of nature.”

Attard residents have joined the chorus of concern about PA3651/20 for the construction of the open-air concert space, with a performance stage, lavatories, shops, a clinic, office and large water reservoirs.

In calling for the suspension of works, the group of residents asked whether noise, traffic and light pollution assessments, as well as an impact study on the surrounding residential areas, had been conducted.

The residents also fear the space will be turned into another open-air club hosting late-night parties and other events.

The plans have met lukewarm reactions from activists and others, amid public anticipation for much-needed recreational space.

“As Malta becomes increasingly urbanised,” activist Steve Zammit Lupi said, “people are craving a large, central, open area, featuring predominantly soiled pathways full of wild grass and canopy trees – that is all! Is it too much to ask for?”

Other comments compared the potential of the Ta’ Qali project to London’s Hyde Park.

Instead of burying the area in concrete, a man-made lake, like The Serpentine, surrounded by trees and quaint foot and cycling paths, could have been created.

“All we need is grass, trees and benches, not flyovers and open-air venues with commercial outlets,” was the general outcry.

Meanwhile, a survey has just shown that young children are crying out for less buildings and more trees and are unhappy about the limited green and safe open spaces.

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