The phenomenal influence that developers have on politicians and political parties definitely predates 2013. However, after the 2013 elections, the disproportionate hold that developers had on the previous PN administration increased exponentially and in truth became a stranglehold on Labour. This influence progressed, unashamedly resulting in more corruption, messing about with the Planning Authority, sometimes issuing illegal permits, and giving away public land on the cheap.
Indeed the 2013 change in government led to an uncontrolled greedy domination of Malta by developers. Prior to 2013, were our poor developers suffering negative treatment from the Nationalist administration? Well, not really, somehow they still had it rather good.
Don’t we all remember George Pullicino telling us that we desperately needed to rationalise and re-draw the perimiters of Outside Development Zones? In that exercise, entire swathes of open spaces and agricultural land were opened up for developers to build on.
As to private mega developments on public land, don’t we all remember how the former Hilton Hotel, surrounded by landscaped, unbuilt space was allowed to be demolished and replaced by a masterpiece of exaggerated overdevelopment and exploitation called Portomaso?
This development saw a government land concession, originally granted for a strictly tourism-related project, changed to one of private office and apartments development, mass speculation on the cheap.
It was a Nationalist administration that negotiated the outrageously intensive development, or rape, of Tigné Point. A massive Hong Kong-style development that appears to serve as a model for what, DB willing, is yet to come in St George’s Bay. To be correct, one has to state that the Tigné Point concession included an obligation to restore the dilapidated British Fort Tigné. There was also another onerous obligation, the restoration of the Knights’ Fort on Manoel Island. But hold on, this obligation came with a concession to build private apartments on this tiny, sensitive, historic island. Looks like we never realised, but we were sorely missing a sprinkling of apartments on Manoel Island. Never mind that the island is the last surviving open space in the notoriously choked Sliema/Gżira expanse.
This Labour administration has a record, many times worse than that of the Nationalists, of bad unrestrained building development
Never mind that this could be the start of a long-term, Tigné-style, Midi-fication of Manoel Island! Why don’t we wake up? Can you imagine the outcry that would have followed had Labour come up with such a project!
As we are still in time, does it make sense to save Manoel Island from private commercial development, and instead conserve it as an unspoilt recreation open space for the gasping residents of Sliema and Gżira? The area could be administered on the same lines as Buskett.
But hold on, there is a legitimate agreement entered into by the State, so any cancellation, which the state has a right to do, must imply, and guarantee, a fair compensation for a forfeited business opportunity. A refund of Fort Manoel restoration expenditure will also be due. Perhaps the forfeiting developer could furthermore be offered an alternate development opportunity, maybe participation in a consortium for the up and coming deal to develop the White Rocks area.
Some time back, we got to know that the State probably dipped into that mysterious passports sovereign fund, and on behalf of us all purchased the privately-owned Villa Guardamangia, a former residence of Queen Elizabeth. I believe this is a fantastic precedent in the use of public money. How about buying back Manoel Island and so re-establish public ownership?
After six years of Labour administration my ears are still ringing with that hollow mantra, Malta tagħna lkoll (Malta belongs to all of us). How about putting this mantra into practice and acknowledge that Manoel Island too is Tagħna lkoll!
The State should conserve it for all citizens and not for a select few with the means to purchase a super apartment on what should be an apartment-free publicly owned national site.
This Labour administration has a record, many times worse than that of the Nationalists, of bad unrestrained building development. Could Manoel Island provide Labour with an opportunity for some reputation redemption?
Under an incessant onslaught by our politicians, taunted as we constantly are to confirm ridiculous and misplaced obligations of party loyalty, we have lost an ability to rationally assess and interpret what is a good or a bad development project. The abject Manoel Island apartments project is negative and Labour has an opportunity to be seen to rectify, intervene and annul it.
Behaving like the “Four legs good, two legs bad” sheep of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it is incredible how many of us stupidly, for example, do accept and bleat the mantra, “Midi good, DB bad”! Because you know how it is, DB are perceived by many to be uncouth next to the sophisticated Midi.
I say no to both, we should wake up from our stupor, and judge objectively. Private apartment development on Manoel Island should not be permitted. Don’t we all know that, over time, once development starts it spreads and continues.
It is a call for sanity, seemingly a rare feature among our politicians. This is an appeal for protection and conservation of Manoel Island for posterity.
Kristina Chetcuti is not appearing this week.