On the occasion of Environment Day 2023, marked annually on June 5, the Interdiocesan Commission for the Environment pays tribute to environmental NGOs, mayors and councillors, and the hundreds of citizens actively involved in protecting the environment and quality of life of all those living in Malta and Gozo.
The Commission also encourages politicians to work for the common good while they are in power to bring about the necessary changes.
On this day, the Commission notes that environmental and agricultural strategies that are in place are still being “undermined by a planning process that does not support them”. Three years have passed since the end of the public consultation which was meant to review the Rural Policy and Design Guidance 2014, a policy that enables piles of stones in the countryside to be turned into buildings.
The integrity of Natura 2000 sites is also under threat because of this policy together with the planning applications awaiting approval under the current policy. One wonders why this review is taking so long when the original policy of 2014 was approved within eight months after the public consultation ended in December 2013.
Again, no action has been taken to amend the Development Control and Design Guidance 2015 which is causing the devastation of Gozo’s ridges with the consequent accelerated loss of Gozo’s unique landscape.
Since 2015, following Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, the Environment Commission has been calling on the authorities to carry out various measures to improve the environment such as:
- Carry out a national property study by an independent body with terms of reference agreed to by all stakeholders which would feed into the review of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) and the Local Plans.
- Grant a veto to the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage on projects that affect sites or property which are protected by the laws that set up these two institutions.
- Discontinue the application of the flawed concepts of “precedent” and “legitimate expectation” in decision-making processes which have no basis in planning law and are anathema to proper planning practice.
- Introduce legislation that specifically addresses noise issues affecting residents including noises related to late-night entertainment and not just background noise as required by the related EU Directive.
The Commission urges the authorities to act immediately to protect the natural and urban environment that sustains the wellbeing and mental health of Maltese and Gozitans.