Respond to the Public Consultation – ex-Jerma Palace Hotel, Site Development Brief*

** Deadline 11th November **

*Updated: It’s even worse than we thought. Figures below have been updated.

Here we go again. Back in February we urged residents of Marsaskala to respond to the public consultation and object to the monstrous Jerma Hotel proposal. You can read more about what has happened since April in our blog post here. The new owners are now asking for PA’s blessing for an extra 39,000sqm of visible floor space. That’s right, the development application we last heard about in February states on page 4:

“The site will have a total gross floor area of 92,000 sqm, split into 61,000 sqm above plaza level and 31,000 sqm below the plaza.”

Translation: the visible portion of the building was spread over 61,000 sqm in the 2018 application, with the remainder (parking and services) being underground. Now, the owners are asking for the visible portion of the building to be spread over 100,000sqm instead. An increase of 64% over the 2018 application!

ALL of us are clearly in favour of demolition of the current dangerous structure. The point of this consultation is to influence what is done with the space left AFTER the demolition. In order to get rid of the current eysore, do we need to have forced down our throats a 15 storey high-rise and at least 166 new apartments in Marsaskala, with all the additional traffic problems this will invetiably cause? The monstrous 15-storey development previously proposed would likely bring some low-paid jobs to the area, which is positive. However, given the historically low unemployment rate Malta is enjoying, we wonder whether the economic argument is worth making at all. We also ask ourselves, given looming tourist accommodation oversaturation and industry warnings to beware of investing in new hotel accomodation, whether 15 floors (9 more than the current Jerma building) of hotel rooms is justified. Why not keep to the current, relatively low-lying building design? Why include residential buildings at all, when Marsaskala is so overcrowded and its infrastructure strained to its limits?

We now have the opportunity to send our representation to the public consultation – doing so is both important and quick. Representations should be as personal but as knowledgeable as possible. Numbers count! Some points you may wish to submit are outlined below. You can do so UP TO THE 11th November, by doing the following:

1) Start a new email to smlp@pa.org.mt
2) Subject line: Response to open Public Consultation – ex-Jerma Palace Hotel, Marsascala Site Development Brief – South Malta Local Plan (2006) (Phase 1)
4) Copy some or all of the text underneath the line below – feel free to edit and make your representation as personal as possible.
5) Add your name and ID number just underneath

Thank you! The more comments, the better. Numbers matter!


To whom it may concern,

Whilst welcoming the delayed demolition of the existing dangerous structure, and expressing concern at the lack of enforcement, I would like to register my concerns regarding the new site development brief for Jerma Palace Hotel. Over the years, the abandoned hotel has become a structurally unsafe site, with a number of recorded accidents occurring, and effectively depriving the general population from the full
enjoyment of the coastline surrounding it. Marsaskala is struggling with infrastructural issues relating to overdevelopment, public spaces are declining, and property prices are rapidly becoming unaffordable for the local community. While there is a strong general consensus that the current building needs to be demolished and the site needs to be rendered safe, with full access to the coast, a large-scale development could make Marsaskala a less desirable place to live in.

We wish the following points to be considered during discussion around this development brief:

  • We agree with the proposed demolition of the current abandoned hotel and urge the PA to reissue an enforcement order in line with the applicable legislation, and ensure that any fines applicable are collected;
  • The increase in GDF from 61,000 sqm to 100,000sqm is disproportionate, insensitive, and unacceptable, and should not be permitted. Furthermore, St. Thomas Tower will effectively be incorporated into the development: among other conditions, the Height Limitation Adjustment Policy for Hotels states that permission for an additional 2 floors over the statutory building height limitation should only be given if:

    “Site responds positively to its context including natural topography, scale, height,
    streetscape, built form and the skyline”

    &
    “Proposals should be sited where visual impact within their context and on sensitive historic environments and their settings such as World Heritage Sites, conservation areas and scheduled buildings is minimised, and should retain and enhance key strategic, long distant views and important vistas at a national and at the local level.”
    &
    The development shall not cause a detrimental impact on the local community as a result of unacceptable levels of increased traffic, noise and bad neighbourliness;

    None of these conditions apply given the proximity of the development to St. Thomas Tower. An open space should be included between the tower and the coastline so that the important visual link between the tower and the sea is restored.
  • The 166 residential units mentioned in the former application (PA/04710/18) have been added so that this massive, large-scale project can be self-financed. This is of great concern, and the mere fact that residential units are required for the economic success of the project should send plans immediately back to the drawing board.
  • Impact assessments: given the density and scale of the project, such a decision should not be taken without having adequate data at hand to highlight the issues and problems that such a large development might create for decades to come. At the very least, independent experts should be commissioned to conduct a thorough:

    (1) Social impact assessment
    (2) Visual impact assessment
    (3) Transport impact assessment
    (4) Health impact assessment
    (5) Environmental impact assessment

    These should be urgently carried out before taking any decision regarding the new site developement brief, and residents informed about the potential impact so as to be able to make an informed contribution to the decision-making process.
  • Residential units: The Jerma site was granted by the Government to Lafico through an act of parliament tourism purposes only. The inclusion of residential units, although permitted in the South Malta Local Plan of 2006, is a betrayal of the original agreement. Including residences in the plan will irrevocably harm the area and further strain the social and urban fabric of Marsascala.
  • The site should be rehabilitated to its original natural state – the land should be given back to the public to enjoy, the tower restored and rehabilitated to continue generating sustainable economic activity, and the Jerma area embellished so that it can be enjoyed by generations to come. Alternatively, only tourist accomodation should be permitted, keeping to the GDF currently occupied by the Jerma Palace Hotel
  • Marsaskala was not among the localities identified in the policy regulating high buildings of over 10 storeys. A 15 storey building will permanently alter the town’s skyline and give precedent to other buildings being raised to similar heights. The development should be scaled down to 10 stories or less, or kept to the current level
  • No real consultation with residents in the area has been carried out. The Local Council gave its approval to an earlier application (PA/04710/18) which is now being superseded, and with no real understanding of the impact that such a huge development will have on the fabric of the area, and on Marsaskala as a whole. Most residents are against the inclusion of residential units.
  • Increase in traffic and pollution in the area: this development will severely exacerbate residential traffic in the area, to the detriment of Marsaskala as a whole.
  • There will be a substantial shadowing effect on nearby residential properties, depriving residents of sunshine during the morning, affecting mental health. This may also have an economic impact as investments in solar PV panels or solar heaters will no longer be worthwhile.

    I hope you will take note of these concerns and reduce, rather than expand, the scope of the development brief.
    Regards,
    [Name]
    [ID Number]

What’s happening at Jerma?

Nothing good. Recent reports that the Jerma site is likely to be (or already has been) purchased by Joseph Portelli – the Gozitan construction baron who is lately on the news for all the wrong reasons, including construction illegalities and ODZ applications (see here, here, here, here and here) – is terrible news for Marsaskala.

Let’s rewind a bit. In our last blog post on Jerma back in April, we posted that the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal had just reached a decision (3 years after the initial enforcement notice was published) not to penalize the owners for abandoning Jerma, or oblige them to pull down the dilapidated building. Instead, they were given 30 days to present a ‘method statement’ describing what they would do to minimise the damage caused by the abandoned building to Marsaskala’s coastline. Since then, absolutely nothing has happened on the ground, except for more rubbish accumulating on the site.

Marsaskala Community & Friends decided to follow up on this and emailed the Planning Authority on the 13th September (more than 3 months after the expiry of the enforcement notice) asking for an update:

Email sent to Planning Authority by the MC&F

We received a reply on the 25th September stating:

Dear Sir,
 Referring to your email below, kindly be informed that a Method Statement has been submitted and is currently being evaluated by the Planning Authority.
[Customer Care, Planning Authority]

Not very informative, but hey, at least the method statement has finally been submitted… it’s only been a few extra months anyway. No penalties of course…

Something is brewing…

On the 18th October 2019, a public consultation on the Jerma site was launched by the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects. The consultation proposes a number of objectives for a Site Development Brief (which sets out the planning parameters for development of the site…amazingly, this had never been done previously). We reproduce the relevant ones below:

Request by the Government for the preparation of a Development Brief for the site of the ex-Jerma Palace Hotel, Marsascala.

a) To designate the site shown in Map A as a Comprehensive Planning Area for Regeneration of the Urban Coast;

b) To promote the development of a mix of land uses which shall include:

• Tourism accommodation which must include Class 3B (Use Classes Order (SL552.15) hotel/s
which shall never be smaller, in terms of Gross Developable Floor space (GDF), than the ex-Jerma Palace Hotel;
Category A residential uses (Use Classes Order (SL552.15) which shall not exceed 40% of the total allowable GDF;

c) To ensure that the overall development density
does not exceed 100,000 sqm GDF, excluding spaces for car parks and services, irrespective of the position of the floor space in relation to any street level;
…….

Map A of the Site Development Brief. Note how St. Thomas Tower is now included in the site.

In addition to the inclusion of St. Thomas Tower in the site plan (Map A), objective (b) is truly shocking. It is clear that the developer is betting on people not understanding what 100,000 sqm (square metres) of development means for Marsaskala.

By the numbers…what do they mean?

  • The current site boundary of the Jerma Hotel occupies 17,500 sqm. All of the current abandoned building and landscaped areas fit within this area. All of the proposed development will also have to fit within this area.
  • According to the Floor-to-Area Ratio policy, the scale of public open space should never be less than 50% of the site area.
  • The development density (EXCLUDING parking areas and services) will be 100,000sqm. This is 63% higher than the 61,000sqm of the application currently being considered by the PA. Based on the site brief, not less than 40,000sqm of the density will be dedicated to residential use (apartments), and 60,000sqm to a mix of tourism and commercial use.

Now for some math…

  • Assuming FAR applies, the land area actually available for building is:
    17,500 ÷ 2 = 8,750sqm
  • Assuming all of the above area will be built up, and dividing 100,000sqm by 8,750sqm, gives us a figure of 11.4. At this point, these are just assumptions as we do not yet have a project application to look at, but let’s say that the building or buildings (previous applications have proposed more than a single building) will be around 11 floors high as a minimum. Each floor equates to roughly 3m height, give or take, depending on use, so the building will be around 34m high.
  • Assuming that an existing policy loophole will be exploited (while the policy regulating high-rise buildings excludes Marsaskala, the policy regulating hotel heights permits four and five star hotels to extend their accommodations to more than two floors over and above the permitted number of floors in the Local Plan), let’s add another 2 floors – equivalent to 6m – to the total height.
  • This brings the potential total height of the building up to 40m. Again, these are rough estimations, but for the moment they are what we have to work with.

In short, it’s a monstrosity

Anybody living in Marsaskala should be horrified at this news. Think about it… the current Jerma building is around 5 storeys + penthouse above street level. Think about what a building 3 times this height will look like. What kind of shadows will it cast?

ALL of us are clearly in favour of demolition of the current dangerous structure. The point of this consultation is to influence what is done with the space left AFTER the demolition. In order to get rid of the current eysore, do we need to have forced down our throats a 15 storey high-rise and at least 166 new apartments in Marsaskala, with all the additional traffic problems this will invetiably cause? The monstrous 15-storey development being planned will likely bring some low-paid jobs to the area, which is positive. However, given the historically low unemployment rate Malta is enjoying, we wonder whether the economic argument is worth making at all. We also ask ourselves, given looming tourist accommodation oversaturation and industry warnings to beware of investing in new hotel accomodation, whether 15 floors (9 more than the current Jerma building) of hotel rooms is justified. Why not keep to the current, relatively low-lying building design? Why include residential buildings at all, when Marsaskala is so overcrowded and its infrastructure strained to its limits?

What can you do about it?

You could send an email to smlp@pa.org.mt with your objections. These should be received by 11th November 2019. We are working on a template submission and will post this for you to copy/edit and send in the coming hours.



The Management of il-Magħluq ta’ Marsaskala

Il-Magħluq ta’ Marsaskala is truly a remarkable place since it offers very rare habitats for various types of flora and fauna in the Maltese Islands. It is also very important for flood relief and for other services that it offers for free. Previously neglected for a number of years and suffering from mismanagement of the surrounding land uses; the area is also faced with various threats which give rise to the need for human intervention to correct these ailments. Thankfully through a collaboration with ERA, Nature Trust – FEE Malta and the involvement of key experts such as those from the Killifish Conservation Project, il-Magħluq is starting to recover from the effects of its neglect. 

Built in the period of the Knights of St. John, the site was formerly used for aquaculture purposes, a type of antique fish farming for several centuries. In fact the owners of a nearby restaurant recall how much fish, shrimps and other animals used to be caught from il-Maghluq. Nowadays the site is a protected nature reserve and the only fishing which can take place is that to control fish stocks for conservation purposes. The site forms part of the EU Natura 2000 network, a network of protected sites selected for their ecological importance. Locally it is protected under various levels of protection.

In the two main ponds which host around a million litres of water together, one can find many interesting species of fish which include Grey Mullet, Sea Bass, Sea Bream and the Freshwater Eel. However one particular fish, the Mediterranean Killifish is unique as it is known to be only found in three other locations around the Maltese Islands where one can find brackish water. Furthermore the site hosts plants such as the Sea Rushes which are quite rare in the Maltese Islands and the Sea Lavender which are typical of the salt marsh habitat il-Magħluq offers.


To support the conservation efforts of il-Magħluq, the Mediterranean Killifish is being bred through a separate project, The Killifish Conservation Project which is a collaboration among NGOs, public and private entities and is led by the Aquaculture Directorate. Breeding is kept for the maintenance of fish stocks. These may be used to release a few individuals on a period basis or as stock in the case of an emergency. As a further note on this project, there are plans to release the Killifish to other sites in the south of Malta, once the habitats are of a suitable nature. 

Despite these very interesting biological features, il-Magħluq is faced with significant stressors which are causing the area to face significant challenges. The challenge to top them all is the surrounding land uses, which are the greatest contributor to the present situation. Paved with a dense urban environment to the east side, and agricultural activities to the west side; the area is subject to various sources of nutrients and pollutants. Too much of anything is a bad thing and even excess nutrients can cause a massive change in the ecosystem, killing off important and sensitive plants and animals which offered services for regulating the ecosystem in the past. This situation is aggravated by the lack of a sufficient connection to the sea which means that there is very little exchange of water and therefore the water appears to become stagnant. 

Through a management agreement between Nature Trust – FEE Malta and ERA, works are being carried out to improve the site’s ecology and aesthetics. A rat control programme, monitoring of water quality and the Killifish population are being done a regular basis. Eggs from waterfowl are removed to prevent further offspring from occupying the area. These are one of the worst polluters and therefore controlling their population is also a priority. Two fish species are being controlled inside the fish ponds for their impact on the water quality and Killifish Population. These are the Grey Mullet which eats microscopic animals that eat the organisms that eat the green colour of the ponds (more Mullet = less zooplankton = more phytoplankton = more green colour) and the Sea Bass which eats the Killifish directly. 

Regular monitoring of the area through CCTV and site inspections, complemented by regular cleaning of the water and land are resulting in an area which is cleaner and more attractive. Various educational activities have taken place at the reserve where children and other visitors have been given talks and carried out fieldwork in the reserve. There are plans to hold an annual awareness raising event which will educate locals and visitors on the importance of the site for its ecology and human value. 

If you would like to know more about what is planned for the area and how to get involved please do not hesitate to contact James Gabarretta on jamesg@naturetrustmalta.org

James Gabarretta is the site manager for il-Magħluq ta’ Marsaskala and il-Ballut ta’ Marsaxlokk. He graduated with a BSc. in Environmental Engineering from the Institute of Applied Sciences at MCAST in 2017.

Marsaskala Community Clean-Up Day – 18/09/2019

Image result for cleanup

As part of the Clean Up the World Campaign, the Marsaskala Local Council is organising a Community Clean-Up. Residents are urged to join and give a helping hand in cleaning our locality.

The clean-up will start at 9am from Żonqor. The more people turn up, the better, so as to move to other zones.

Do join and make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, get refillable water bottles, apply sun protection and you are urged to wear a cap.

Cleaning equipment including gloves, skips, garbage bags and other cleaning materials will be provided by the Local Council.

Nibbles and refreshments will be provided to those who attend.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Committee for Sustainability at the University of Malta (C-SUM) has just published good tips which can apply to everyone:

  1. Turn off air conditioners and lighting when a room is vacant unless it will be reoccupied within the next few minutes.
  2. Block direct sunlight on hot days and keep windows and doors closed, otherwise air conditioners need to consume much more energy to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  3. Keep the AC to an appropriate temperature setting, typically not below 23 degrees C for cooling. Set the fan to automatic and the flaps directed towards you. Consider that every additional degree of cooling requires some 6% higher energy consumption.  
  4. When there are multiple AC units in the same space avoid setting the AC mode of any of the units to Auto and ensure that all ACs within the same room are set to the same mode (cooling or heating).
  5. Close water taps completely after use.
  6. Use the appropriate half or full flush buttons in the toilets.
  7. Set the power options of the PCs to save energy. For example set turn off monitor after 20 minutes, sleep after 1 hour, hibernate after 2 hours. Note that as most PCs on Campus are powered through the University UPSs, the resultant power consumption is even higher due to losses within the UPS systems.
  8. Minimise the use of printers by using soft copies of documents when possible. This conserves energy, saves paper, reduces ink/toner consumption and any associated ultrafine particle emissions.

Marsaskala Local Council Election – Results

The below are the elected Councillors for Marsaskala Local Council. We wish the Councillors all the best in their posts, whilst thanking all candidates.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, glasses and suit
Mario Calleja (Mayor)
Image may contain: 1 person, close-up
Janice Falzon (Vice Mayor)
Charlot Mifsud
Image may contain: 1 person, suit
Patrick Camilleri
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, close-up
Mary Rose Mifsud
Image may contain: Ryan Portelli, glasses, suit and close-up
Ryan Portelli
Image may contain: one or more people, suit and close-up
John Schembri
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, suit and close-up
John Baptist Camilleri
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, suit, outdoor and water
Errol Cutajar

Il-Magħluq’s fish fauna – The killifish and seabass

In our first installment about the Magħluq’s fish fauna, we had talked about the common eel. In this second episode, we will be talking about 2 fish. One is the killifish; probably the fish that is most commonly associated with the Magħluq area.

The other is the seabass; another fish that habitates the area.

The information is again brought to our portal by Mr. Rio Sammut, who we thank for his valuable input.

Aphanius fasciatus: Killifish (Bużaqq in Maltese)

Aphanius fasciatus Saline de Cervia 2003
Photo from www.killi.co.uk

Max. length: 6.5cm Max. weight: 10g

Characteristics:

Rounded body covered in big scales: large eyes; short mouth deflected upwards; single dorsal fin set at mid-point of the back; anal fin bigger than pectorals; fan tail, truncated and slightly convex; the male is smaller and yellow or greyish-green with blue areas and about twelve dark vertical bands across the sides; the female is 10% larger and more greyish, with alternating narrower and shorter black stripes.

Habits:

The Maltese Killifish is an endemic sub-species. It used to be extremely abundant in brackish water, occasionally penetrating into the seawater inside bays, especially following torrential rainfall and consequent flooding. It feeds on small organic scraps, mosquito larvae, and minute crustaceans and copepods. Being a carnivorous predator it must not be kept in a community aquarium, but only with others of its own kind. Its numbers have declined alarmingly in the last two decades and it is now an endangered species. If any specimens are collected for a period of study in a suitable fish tank, they should be released exactly where they had been found within the week.

Dicentrarchus labrax : Seabass (Spnotta in Maltese)

Photo from renotonna.yolasite.com

The sea-basses belong to a small family of elongated grey fishes that superficially resemble grey mullets. They are heavily built powerful predators that live near the coastline and often associate themselves with schools of grey mullets. When young they are gregarious and visit bays and harbours in shoals, looking for small fishes that they attack and devour mercilessly. They have two distinct dorsal fins, the first spiny and fan-shaped, and the second with one spine followed by a number of soft rays. There are three spines leading the anal fin and the tail fin is somewhat forked. The head, eyes and mouth are all moderately sized.

Max. length: 1m

Max. weight: 9kg

Characteristics:

A powerful stocky body, circular in cross section; conspicuous eyes; well developed strong jaws lined with fine teeth on the inside, the lower jaw protruding a little; the first gill cover has some spines on the lower edge and the second has no ridges; well attached, big cycloid scales cover the skin; the fins are short-based and well balanced, the tail fin is forked with a thick peduncle; dark brownish-grey on the back, with silvery-grey sides and almost white metallic belly.

Habits:

The European species inhabits the western Atlantic coasts, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. This handsome fish travels during daytime from coast to coast, penetrating inshore waters to prey on small or young fishes, sand-eels, squids and crustaceans. Actually it attempts to swallow anything that moves, in fact the author has personally found a bird chick, a number of large flying ants, pieces of dead sea grass, and a bite of pizza, inside Seabass stomachs!

The young frequent bays and inlets and consume more invertebrates than adult fish do. The Seabass is a hardy fish found at all sorts of seabeds and even in brackish waters. When the sea is rough the adults are to be found at the surf zone, close to the shoreline, attacking the confused smaller fishes. This habit makes the Bass a favourite sporting fish, well known for the tenderness of its scrumptious white flesh.

This bass is bred and farmed extensively since it is a fast growing fish and very hardy. It is exquisite to eat, especially when it gets away from the fish farms and feeds on a natural diet for a week or more.

This fish may be found inside the Maghluq (fish ponds) of Marsaskala (Malta) It belongs there naturally, but is a threat to the killifish, being a predator. Together with the killifish, eels, and hundreds of other vertebrates and invertebrates, its numbers are always diminishing, mainly due to toxic chemicals leaching into the ponds from the Sant Antnin Recycling Plant as well as fertiliser farming and firework fallout.

Candidate Responses – Errol Cutajar

Development

1. What is your stance on the Jerma proposal as it currently stands? Should the LC be asked to vote on this in the future, how would you vote if the residential apartments remain part of the proposal?

I am not in favour of the project as proposed, since I think that high rise should never be on the agenda of any part of the coast or central areas in Marsaskala. I believe that should the site be redeveloped, it shouldn’t occupy more space than it currently does, perhaps less, if possible, but what is most important is that the current abandoned site should be demolished and removed as soon as possible, and left vacant until it is developed again…………should have been done, ages ago (It’s an eyesore and a place to attract squatters, dumping of rubbish, and other undesirable activities). I think that it should be rebuilt into a high rated Hotel (For Marsaskala lacks one at present, and is in dire need of one) though a small percentage say 10 – 15% Residential units within, wouldn’t do any harm, though if possible we are to avoid any residential units within the complex. I also believe that any remaining unbuilt up area within the complex and the foreshore, should be left open to the general public. 


2. What are your thoughts on the takeup of public land to build the Żonqor branch of the AUM? If you had to vote again in the future, would you be in favour of, or against the irreversible destruction of that area of Żonqor?

I am not in favour of the taking up of public land to built the Żonqor branch of AUM. The land has already been conceded to the developer, but as yet no development permits have been issued. I think we are still in a position to save Żonqor, and if there is any possibility  that a  vote is taken again, I would vote against. The reason, is not simply and solely due to the fact that ODZ land will be taken up, but also for a number of other reasons, such as;

1. I think that developing the area in a University and Dormitories (which are practically residential units to me – and a window to a change in program of works, along the way), in a prime, seaview area, would give rise to other surrounding ODZ land to become susceptible for development in the future;

2.The Żonqor area as a quiet, strictly residential area as we know it, (except for a few outlets), will become commercialised, there will be increase in traffic, and other issues which will definitely make the area more congested.

3. It will also result in loss of precious parking space, open to the general public, around the present pixxina, and loss of the present pixxina itself, which will bring about the necessity of building it up elsewhere in Marsaskala (as is being in fact proposed in the tas-Siberia Area – beneath the loġoġ).  Just have a simple look at what happened (those who can remember) to the then strictly residential areas in the vicinity of tal-Qroqq, Imsida. Żonqor will become the same, probably worse, because it is more prone to have more retail outlets given it is a coastal area. 

3. What are your thoughts about excessive development in general in Marsaskala? Our infrastructure is struggling to cope – how will you ensure that Marsaskala remains a residential village for families, as opposed to becoming another Sliema?

I don’t like to see Marsaskala become another Sliema. That is one of the reasons, (and I’m sure other Marsaskala residents, and others who frequent Marsaskala believe the same), that I prefer to live in Marsaskala rather than Sliema. Though I do acknowledge that development and progress cannot be halted, striking a balance in life is the best way to move along. I don’t mind that older buildings of no historical/architectural value, is pulled down to make way, for modern structures as long as it is done in a sustainable and sensible manner, and as long as it does not disturb the sky line (which mind you, the addition of extra floors policy by PA, within a short period of time is already disturbing it). That is, in itself an alternative way not to disturb any more ODZ land, unless it is a necessary evil, like the building of a school (as has happened recently). In doing so, we must always bring into mind the parking problem, which is increasing drastically with the increase of cars, with the pulling down of old buildings, thus resulting in loss of parking spaces to make way for garage complexes entrances. Perhaps schemes must be introduced so that any residential units built and sold, must always be linked to a sale of a garage, or else giving incentives to car owners for eg, in the form of rebates on their car licences, or rebates on tax on insurance policies, who leave/park their cars in garages (insurance wise, there is less risk on the vehicle), but I ackowledge the difficulty in monitoring the system).


4. What is your opinion on the preservation and creation of public open spaces in Marsaskala? What do you think about the building of new LC premises in Ġnien Sant’ Anna in the face of residents’ opposition?

Re public spaces I would prefer that they are conserved as much as possible, embellished, and left for the general public use, Building within them, should be strictly left, in case of necessity, if there is no alternative and as a measure of last resort. The LC premises is one of these necessary evils, like the building of a school. I think Marsaskala residents, deserve to have a decent LC building, which will definitely help the way the LC is administered, and make it better for people to get the services they deserve. Still, if there is a way wherein, this project may be incorporated in an existing but viable building with potential to expand, then that should remain the first option, and building it in the public open space should be avoided. I also understand that this area has been devolved to the LC, by the Central Government, so that is an additional cost to acquire land/property which has been saved by the council, making it possible to use the money for other projects. Perhaps extra pressure should be done on the central Goverment to acquire vacant property in the vicinity, and to devolve it to the local council. In any case, I hope that no trees, (protected or not) are destroyed in the process, as is being implied.   

5. What is your stance on the construction of an ODZ petrol station just opposite the Family Park?

My very  personal opinion is that I think, that a petrol station is required, when approaching Marsaskala. Marsaskala residents/visitors have to go either to Żabbar, Żejtun, or Għaxaq, to the next petrol station to refuel/wash/service their cars. What concerns me is that as we say in Maltese ‘mis-saba nieħdu l-id’, and bit by bit, the footprint of the committed land, will become larger. In that case, I am personally against any extension which is currently being proposed (not yet approved) of the same. Hopefully, as I am informed, this won’t be used as a trojan horse to get to build residential units on ODZ land, in the future (since the fossils fuels are to be phased out in due time).

6. What is your vision for the Sant’Antnin recycling plant once it it phased out? What would you wish to have instead of it?

RE re use of Sant Antnin, after it is phased out, I would like to see expansion of the Family Park/perhaps a larger car park (with environment friendly park and ride facilities towards central Marsaskala areas) to cater for the same, bicycle lanes, dog park,  etc etc, ….just thinking aloud.


7. Noise disturbance is an increasingly problematic issue. Would you consider fining contractors who disobey basic rules like working outside permitted hours?

Building Permits are issued with conditions, and that is one of the conditions, not to work during certain hours, so it is already so, all it requires is enforcement. Neighborhood disturbance is also a contravention at law, (the problem is that there are no written legal standards for sound levels). Each time someone is arraigned in court, a court expert has to be appointed to test the decibel noise level, and express his opinion on what is the world wide standard acceptable. We should have parameters established at law, but it should cater for particular situations and circumstances like excessive sound levels from establishments, and construction/works/implants. 


8. How will your service as a councillor improve the health of residents?

I think we should embark on an educational campaign for healthier life styles, – and making it easier for people to practice a sport, (Sport classes) and to eating healtly. (Educational programms). Creating more walkways, in Żonqor for eg, and other areas etc etc. Improving existing pavements and walk ways.

9. Parking is increasingly a problem, yet measures to promote active means of transport such as cycling have thus far been actively discouraged (e.g. removal of the cycle lane along Triq is-Salini). Will you actively encourage cycling and walking in Marsaskala? How?

In Marsaskala we have the luxury, of a ‘U’ or more likely ‘V’ shaped coast, which is a bit more than 3km long – excluding the San Tumas, triq il-Qaliet Promenade (if I remember well from my running days, which I miss due to increased working schedule – should find the time to revert to it any way, not an excuse☺).  Do we need to improve it ? yes of course. With respect to cycling I think, we cannot have the cake and eat it, as they say. Yes I don’t think it was right to remove the cycle lane, to be used for parking, but then again, it was a measure to partly address the parking problem. One can ride a bike in the road in any case, so it is rather an argument in favour of safe cycling, though I don’t expect professional bicycle riders going to and fro, ‘Tal-Fanal Restaurant’ up till Jerma site, only. It was rather more of a safe bicycle lane for children, and safer for pedestrians to walk on pavements without having bicycles around. We can, as I said in my answer no 8, create more pathways/walkways in areas, which may also be accompanied by a decent bike lanes.
You forgot to ask me about the possibility of land reclamation which might include Marsaskala too. I am against, and I will vote against if I’m ever asked to vote. 


Environment and litter

1. Do you think there is a problem with rubbish and dog litter in Marsaskala? What do you plan to do about it?

There is. There are laws also. As I said before, the magic word is ‘enforcement’, which is currently on the disappearing side rather than on the appearing side, when it comes to comparing it with magic.


2. Will you be willing to speak to restaurant owners and require a bin outside their premises?

I believe that that is already a requirement, but again, we need some magic. Yes, I am willing to communicate anything to anyone which may be beneficial to our locality. Having a tidy environment is not solely for the benefit of residents/visitors as against the benefit of restaurant owners. I think it is wrong to make both compete with each other, they should complement each other, for it is also in the restaurant owners’ interest to see that the surrounding environment is kept clean, in order to keep on improving their own commercial goodwill.


3. What effective enforcement strategies would you put in place for those who do not follow rules?

Breaking the law should have its consequences, fining, losing a licence, anything which is in the law books, but as long as a fair hearing is guaranteed (for that is also required at law).


Citizen Involvement

1.Currently, groups of residents are only allowed to speak at local council meetings once a year. Will you consider the possibility of engaging more publicly with groups of citizens during local council meetings once in office? How would you do this?

The rules are to be followed with respect to Local Council meetings, but that doesn’t mean that the Local Council shouldn’t engage in organising consultation meetings as is necessary with the public to gauge their opinion, or getting to voice their opinions informally whilst the Local Council Meeting is not in session. Though presence/participation of the general public in these meetings are a bit low (but I can understand that too – see my answer to the following question).


2. Will you make an effort to regularly notify citizens of important council matters via the (thus far) rarely updated website, offical FaceBook page, and any other means?

Yes I believe the public should be informed regularly. Yes I believe the official website/Face book page needs to be overhauled and updated regularly according to modern standards. People today are busy, going on with their own lives, (and that may be the reason for lack of presence/participation), and this has to be recognised, but may be addressed by a very well organised Official Website/Facebook page and any other online tools wherein citizens can complain, suggest, make a proposal, report, but they should be heard, and given a reply, perhaps interact live too.


Generic


1. Give me one good reason why you deserve the vote and the trust of the residents of Marsaskala.

This is a very difficult question to reply.  It is my first time to contest the Local Council Elections, so I cannot vouch on my delivery/past performance. In my work as a freelance lawyer I have always put priority to my client’s needs and requirements, and to be of service. My intention is to do the same with my political work, this time towards the resident/trader/visitor of our locality. Though I never promise anything which I know before hand that it is not attainable. I prefer to tell people how things stand, rather than giving them credit when it is not due, or telling them, that they have a right when they don’t, simply to keep them hoping.


2. If you were granted three personal wishes for Marsaskala – no limits, everything is possible. What would those wishes be? What is your vision for Marsaskala?

i). Rescinding the Contract with Sadeen with respect to the Żonqor Land Concession.

ii). Building 3 underground car parks – in 3 different Zones (on of them central area).

iii). Widening parts of the coast road in Żonqor area (where possible), to make way for diagonal parking spaces).
There are many, many more, but you only asked for three. Pity. ☺

3. What result do you want to achieve, if elected for the coming five years for Marsaskala residents?

Back to reality ☺. I would like to see more police rounds, a proper police station (we need to send a professional approach message, plus it’s not fair for the police officers to work in a cubicle). Security is a concern for the residents and we have a duty to make what is logically possible in our remit to put their mind at rest. I want to see a well balanced approach, between the interests of the residents, the traders (who earn their living from their commercial establishments), and the visitors, they should never be seen to be competing with each other. Pressure on the competent authorities to embark in a project to repair the shore-keys, which have collapsed, and to make them accessible again for the general public, to make use of them especially during summer. 

   
4. What can we hold you accountable for?

My commitment to be truly of service to the people without fear or favour.

Update: Candidates and their responses

Image result for responses

Almost two months ago, we contacted 10 Marsaskala local council candidates, and posed questions to them about our locality, their vision for it, and their stance on certain issues that affect our town.

An additional candidate was contacted on 06/05/2019, bringing the total number of candidates up to 11 . The full list of contacted candidates can be seen in the original post here.

2 other candidates, Patrick Camilleri and John Baptist Camilleri have replied to our questions, bringing the total to 5 candidates who have replied. We thank all respondents for their time; we do appreciate the busy schedules that elections bring with them.

In less than a week’s time, it will be voting day; we urge other candidates to respond to ensure a level playing field and a well-informed electorate. We hope that our readers will take the time to read through these replies, go out to vote, and make an informed choice next Saturday.