Over the last few decades, Marsascala has evolved drastically, and residents have become more concerned about the future of our locality. At this stage, a holistic plan is needed urgently.
However, our community wants to ensure that any proposals made will reflect the needs of the village and its people and avoid a one-size-fits-all solution that will transform Marsascala into something which it is not and should not be.
We want proposals that are inspired by Marsascala’s unique assets and supported by its residents and communities. Only in this way can we ensure that our seaside village will regain its pioneering spirit and evolve to meet present day and future challenges.
The realisation of the potential of our seaside village rests on tenacity, persistence and a sustained, long-term focus from a multiplicity of actors.
We know that the deep-rooted and complex challenges affecting our village cannot be solved immediately. However, we believe that if our recommendations are pursued, our locality will be set on a route to regeneration and can once again boast to be a desirable place to live in and visit.
As residents, we want to be able to voice our concerns and worries and ensure that our interests are made known before any call for a holistic plan is issued.
The best placed to develop Marsascala to its utmost potential are the locals. For this reason, we have identified some elements as integral to the fulfilment of an optimistic vision of our locality, as follows:
First, the seaside should be viewed as a natural home and a host for residents and visitors respectively, where sustainable tourism can develop environmentally.
The provision of high-quality, affordable mixed housing in our community is essential.
The traffic problem must be alleviated through smart interventions without causing detriment to the locality’s natural environment.
A comprehensive methodology to assess the rising sea levels and severe flooding problems needs to be highlighted to identify effective preventative investments that do not destroy the unique characteristics of this village.
Finally, creativity, sustainability and well-being must be put at the heart of the proposals, as a means of diversifying and growing the local economy and as an accessible way of getting the whole community on board.
For a successful regeneration, we need to focus on the exceptional quality of life that seaside living can uniquely offer, which people not only want to visit but where the residents can afford to stay.
Towns and villages that have the most success in shaking off the negative image are those that have identified their own special character and unique selling points.
People need a reason to revisit, and this motivation cannot be dependent upon repetitive commercialisation that many towns and villages in Malta are undergoing.
More of the same will not increase the value of our economy. It can only increase the uglification process that overdevelopment has brought about. We want to look elsewhere and use our inherent history, geology, ecology and attractions to encourage small independent businesses and start-up ventures to cluster and feed off each other, cooperating in terms of sharing resources and facilities and supplying one another with complementary traditions.
More of the same will not increase the value of our economy. It can only increase the uglification process- Ivan Sammut
What we need to emphasise is planning, zoning and having a long-term plan, and not a rushed plaster.
Marsascala needs to be seen as uplifting itself before the private investment comes, and this is where public funding is needed.
There are significant assets in public ownership which can create an uplift in the area. If this uplift is left in the hands of the private sector, the public assets will become their toys manipulated to suit their needs and not the needs of the locality, its people and its visitors.
Therefore, we consider that the restoration and enhancement of the public land and of heritage assets through capital investment is of paramount importance in supporting the wider economy in our village.
We therefore believe that the following questions should be explored in detail, and the views of the residents and local businesses listened to carefully.
What are the challenges facing Marsascala and its community?
Has sufficient research been conducted to provide robust analysis of the economic and social health and vitality of Marsascala?
To what extent is Marsascala affected by issues arising from the nature of its building stock? How might such issues be addressed – and are any changes to policies required (such as moratoriums on types of developments)?
Do population transience and demographic changes present any issues for the village of Marsascala and its community?
Do problems relating to traffic and parking present a barrier to a healthy growth for Marsascala’s community and its potential?
Is sufficient attention being given to the potential contribution that could be made by other sectors beyond tourism?
Are sufficient tools and resources available to the local authorities, property owners and other stakeholders to allow them to promote and deliver the restoration of the physical environment already existing in Marsascala? Are public assets being put to good use for the community of Marsascala?
Is the provision of sports, cultural and creative education in Marsascala of a good enough standard?
What role should residents, local businesses, and local communities of Marsascala play in the regeneration of the locality? Do good processes of community engagement currently exist, and if so, could they be applied more widely?
We want to see Marsascala thrive, attracting young families shaping their own and their children’s futures and older people returning here in the hope of finding a pleasant, tranquil place in a stable community.
Ivan Sammut is secretary of the Marsascala Residents Network, on whose behalf he wrote this article.