The Planning Authority has scored a bit of an own goal with its latest educational campaign. It started off with a collage of tiles and the tagline telling us that tiles were pretty, but they were only appropriate in the bathroom and should not be fixed to house facades.

And that’s what set off a furious reaction from the public, asking why the Planning Authority was obsessing about tiles when the whole country was one big planning mess. 

I mean, ideally we shouldn’t go plastering our high streets with green bathroom tiles, but the eyesore that would create pales in comparison to the jarring mismatch of buildings which the Planning Authority approves every week.

Are we really going to reach for the smelling salts because of some tiles when the PA has approved a high-rise of astounding hideousness which will shunt a whole locality to perpetual shadowing? Are random tiles the root cause of the mutilation of our urban cores?

If tiles are a mortal sin for the authority, what would those ODZ land-gobbling fuel stations be? Shouldn’t we try to prioritise what is acceptable and what isn’t?

Are we really going to reach for the smelling salts because of some tiles when the PA has approved a high-rise of astounding hideousness?

This goes beyond aesthetics. We have now largely become inured to the ugliness around us (save for a few spots such as Rabat which is also threatened by recent applications) but the intensity of construction and urban sprawl is leading to an unsustainable, unhealthy country with retrograde infrastructural services.

This tweeting about tiles is fiddling while the country burns. The PA turning into a Tile Nazi and haranguing ordinary citizens about minor issues whilst ignoring major development monstrosities is unfair and smacks of two weights and two measures. No wonder that the anti-tile campaign was met with such ridicule and become the subject of so many spoofs. 

Some arcane authority is insisting on a strict healthy-eating policy in schools. This translates into a complete ban on birthday cakes, muffins, Christmas party goodies, pastizzi and even the għadam tal-mejtin in November.

Students are now meant to mark celebrations with ... carrot sticks dipped in hummus and fruit kebabs and the exciting inclusion of brown bread sandwiches.

I can only imagine where those carrot sticks end up. And – again – I cannot help wondering about our sense of priorities. Because although healthy-eating guidelines are a good thing, their strict and unqualified application will backfire. Children are being deprived of the opportunity of an occasional treat to share with friends. They are losing out on the cultural and seasonal associations with certain sweets.

Moreover, this pretend concern to switch to wholesome and natural foods means that children are being offered blackened fruit and defrosted vegetables (in the School Fruit and Veg Scheme) which they understandably shun.

These fruit and veg specimens are wrapped in layers of plastic and non-bio degradable waste – meaning that this is not only an expensive exercise in futility but an environmentally unfriendly one at that.

I wonder how much money has been wasted on this greenwash scheme and barmy branding for that weird scheme mascot. It is really dispiriting to see funds being thrown away in this manner for a temporary photo opportunity for some aspiring politician, when the scheme is not only ineffective but also wasteful.

Of course, the camera opportunity next to that gurning, creepy vegetable mascot is an easy fix. Implementing policies which will ensure that our children have open spaces for recreation and reasonably clean air to breathe is far beyond the ambitions of short-sighted politicians.

So we continue with our blackened bananas wrapped in reams of plastic, politicians’ selfies and an obesogenic society where children gasp with asthma deprived of birthday muffins while their parents get rapped on the knuckles for thinking of tiles.

Priorities indeed.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece


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