The proposal for a new Rural Policy has been approved for public consultation by the Executive Council of the Planning Authority, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning Aaron Farrugia announced.
“The objectives of the new policy are threefold with the overarching objective of keeping development to a minimum: to ascertain that the genuine farmer will be protected and helped to continue providing food; providing clarity and addressing interpretation issues which could have led to abuses in the past; and address the issue of sprouting agricultural stores in fields across Malta and Gozo,” the minister said, stressing the importance of proper rural planning in favour of heightened productivity, economic development, and environmental protection.
“The policy introduces a general presumption against development which is likely to have an adverse impact on protected areas, species, and habitats. The role of our environment extends beyond that of providing clean air, soil, water, and ground. The Maltese countryside provides a striking and important context to the natural and cultural identity of the Maltese national heritage: this is of particular importance as the setting of any particular cultural asset contributes to its merit. In addition, the Maltese countryside contributes to the economic advancement of the islands through agricultural produce, tourism-related and recreational activities to mention just a few,” Minister Farrugia said.
The Minister said that whilst it is clear that economic activities require natural resources, there should not be a dilemma to choose between preserving the environment and developing the economy. Economic and social development necessitate sustainable management of our country’s natural resources through policies that recognise this fundamental principle, he said.
Chairperson of the Planning Authority’s Executive Council Martin Saliba said that the proposed Rural Policy and Design Guidance document which will be published for public consultation in the coming days will replace the current Policy of 2014. “The draft policy is not only in sync with the spirit of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development but, more importantly, seeks to prioritise that rural areas are intended to sustain the farming community while providing the public with a space to get away from the daily urban life and experience the natural richness of the Islands’ countryside and its biodiversity and natural heritage,” he said.