A common sustainable goal for ODZ- a proposed Private Members Bill by PD

Partit Demokratiku champions Malta’s natural capital and is at the forefront to safeguard the rural outside development zone (ODZ).

PD specifically refers to SPED (Spatial Planning and Environmental Development) which is a visionary document that gives political direction up to 2020 and notes, that the sustainable use of land in ODZ has not only reached a red flag (more so with the rationalization of 2006), but when it is being applied in the revision of Planning Authority’s policies and in the granting of permits it has proved to be defective. It is evident that it does not overrule development in protected areas (e.g. Fuel Station Policy).

The recent debate on the American University of Malta has raised a number of eyebrows, and although PD firmly believes that tertiary education is a resourceful economical diversity which we must venture in, prime virgin land should never be un- scrupulously sacrificed for such projects. PD’s Opposition members Dr Marlene Farrugia and Dr Godfrey Farrugia had spearheaded a rational change in the granting of government Zonqor land to AUM, even though they were against this proposal from its inception.

The land at Zonqor Point has been leased for 99 years to AUM and is to be ‘solely and exclusively’ developed for educational purposes on condition that the project must be completed by 2023, public access must be guaranteed, only non-retail outlets are to be present on site, no public guarantee may be given on AUM’s bank loans and that government can ‘dissolve the grant ‘of land if contractual specifications are not met. This lease of land was approved by Parliament in December 2015. It is evident that up to this date there has been no breach of contract and if government had to reclaim Zonqor for no valid reason this will result in legal repercussions and a non-credible public status for government.

PD is conscious of these difficulties and is of the opinion that solutions should never be cosmetic or call for populist politics. PD acknowledges that the rape of ODZ by successive governments (e.g. Smart City by PN) must be stopped once and for all.

Consequently PD will be forwarding a Private Members Bill to amend the political direction of SPED. In these amendments Partit Demokratiku will propose, among other things, that the term ‘feasibility’, which is legally undefined, will be substituted by sustainability (legally defined) and the narrow concept of development (economic) sustainability will be widened to include environmental and social sustainability. In so doing, due consideration will be given to our small island nation’s constraints and characteristics.

Eg: a plot of land in ODZ once built is very economically feasible as its price value quadruples….but may not be feasible from a social and/ or environmental point of view.

This would mean that the reasoned decision taken by PA during the planning stage of all ODZ applications ( including AUM’s Zonqor Point) will guarantee a workable transparent and accountable mechanism that follows a stringent code of sustainable best practice even when the its sequential approach is adhered to.

Good governance calls for effective checks and balances. If the legal wording of SPED remains inappropriate this is bound to remain open to misinterpretation and possible misuse. Let’s call a spade a spade and approach this dilemma holistically with an intermediate and long term vision and not in a piecemeal approach.

PD is a true guardian of our natural capital and reassures the Maltese and Gozitan people that it will advocate public good.