• In its reactions to the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) document, the Kummissjoni Interdjocesana Ambjent feels that the policy outlined in the document fails to be an adequate replacement for the 1990 Structure Plan mainly because, apart from its shorter time frame (its target is 2020), it fails to provide official statistical information justifying its policies and proposals. Moreover, notwithstanding the extension of the period of consultation, there has been no real attempt to motivate the general public to participate. But the KA welcomes SPED’s attempt to clearly address the social dimension in socio-economic development, and insists yet again that the management of environmental resources and sustainable development should be officially undertaken by the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD).

    According to the KA, SPED lacks a clear plan of action with clear informed policies, set deadlines and an indication of whoever will be responsible for its implementation. As regards land use, the KA fails to see valid reasons justifying the “minor adjustments” to the Development Zone boundaries proposed by SPED, when the supply of dwelling units is much greater than the demand. Moreover, it cannot understand why SPED proposes no tangible and strict policies to control the unsustainability of local land development.

    The KA agrees with the general principles of the National Spatial Strategy, but it has strong reservations about the proviso made in the same section, allowing the Government to bypass established policies. The KA commends SPED for highlighting the link between health and the environment in issues related to development. But it sadly notes that the document does not even refer to the hazards caused by the fireworks industry. The KA slams the document for a statement referring to the urgency of commissioning specific studies relating to the issue, when local research on the health hazards related to fireworks residue is already available. It also criticizes the SPED for minimizing the important role of education by not even referring to this issue.

    The KA urges Government to learn from past experiences and use SPED and any review of planning legislation to remove ambiguous and ill-advised regulations and policies that have allowed individuals and organisations to profit from resultant loopholes. It reiterates that, for transparency’s sake, the names of all those responsible in the compilation of such documents should be mentioned. The sensitivity of documents like SPED cannot be underestimated since what is written in them will directly affect what happens on the ground. The SPED, in its current version, falls short of guaranteeing a solid step in practising sustainable development at this level.

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