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.