The Ramblers Association of Malta was very pleased that the Portomaso Extension application was rejected by the MEPA board.
Ramblers are however not so pleased that the board was divided on this issue, when, to all intents and purposes, the decision should been crystal clear. This is in view of the fact that the original permit, for the Portomaso buildings, stated that no further development could be carried out in this area. Apart from the other reasons militating against approval of this application, this condition alone should have been enough for this application to be thrown out, without MEPA wasting its time, and everyone else's, in considering and evaluating this spurious application.
It is therefore surprising that half the MEPA board members actually voted in favour of this development. It seems that the recent cultural change in favour of more sustainable development has not permeated to all the board members. Those who voted “yes” are apparently still in favour of the maxim: "If there is an open space, let's build it".
Ramblers also note that the PL representative on the board was one of those who voted in favour of the project. This causes us to question the PL’s current policy on the environment, as this looks more favourable to unrestrained development. Unfortunately, the PN representative was absent for this crucial vote, so we cannot know how he would have voted.
We are also not in agreement with the MEPA chairman's stance that the restriction against further development should not have been included in the first permit. According to the Times: "Mr Walker criticised the decision to include the condition in the first permit precluding further development, saying that the hands of future board members should not be tied down in this way". This is in fact the reason for these restrictions, to tie the hand of future board members, so that developments cannot be extended in the "usual" manner, by submitting one application after another, each one extending the built-up area. Mr. Walker, more than anyone else, should be aware of this.
Having said that, Mr Walker should still be commended for doing the right thing, and voting against.
26 April, 2012