Malta Diary Reaching for the sky – BUT, have all the flowers gone now?
Then an RAF man himself, 55 years ago my dad Frankie solemnly declared there was only one future hope for Malta – reaching for the sky, that is, building vertically and not horizontally because Malta and Gozo were small and when development eventually came the land would quickly be swallowed up.
The reaction was typically conservative. “Steady on Frank old man – this is Malta we’re discussing – not Manhattan or New York you know; Malta is small fields and herds of sheep and goats, remote chapels and farmsteads with wind pumps, priests and nuns everywhere”.
“Look at Singapore and Hong Kong” he would say. “That is what they have done”.
During the last 55 years, but specifically over the last 30 years, Malta has been ravaged and raped, gang-raped and ravished all over again and then gang-raped again for good measure.
The spread of urban development has exploded beyond all proportion. Places like Qawra and Bugibba and the whole of Paceville and St George’s Bay have become monstrous, the south of Malta has been neglected for decades and my home town Sliema has become a notorious blot on the landscape from where it starts at the beginning of The Strand right through to where it ends in Balluta.
The quaint Edwardian and Victorian houses and villas that ran the length of Tower Road that stretches along the Sliema Seafront have all been demolished and replaced by pretentiously ugly blocks of apartments blocking the sunlight for houses behind them in inner Sliema.
The open beauty of Tigne’ Point in another part of Sliema has similarly been destroyed and if one were to make an honest appraisal, the whole of Malta has become one ribbon horizontal development with no distinction where one town ends and merges into another.
Now, suddenly in 2015 and 2016, those that slumbered and were aiding and abetting all kinds of rape under the auspices of how “wonderfully” Malta was “developing” have woken up and a myriad of societies have mushroomed and pontificate on the need to have butterflies and bees fluttering over golden fields, open areas for family picnics, complaints that more development will create more traffic when Malta has been choking with traffic for years, and one MP brazenly objecting to a proposed development on the basis that such development would push up the price of spaghetti for the area inhabitants!
Of course, this is all too little and much, much too late. The horses bolted from the stable long ago and it is useless trying to lock the doors now. The hypocrisy is that those who once raped and pillaged, now want to conserve and preserve, including some political parties who have jumped on a growing sentiment to curry electoral political favour.
This has thrown the country into an enormous enigma – whether to continue to develop and encroach or whether to look for a final alternative and – reach for the sky, or otherwise to stand still and not develop further when the country’s current economy is booming, when unemployment is at its lowest rate and employment at its highest – including the employment of thousands of EU and immigrant workers, and some tremendous further developments such as an American University and vast new healthcare projects in the pipeline.
Over the last weeks the controversy further exploded when the country’s Planning Authority agreed to grant permission for the building of a three-tower 40-storey complex at the industrial centre in Mriehel and a 38-storey tower development in the heart of Sliema.
This naturally is the real only solution, a choice between vertical or horizontal or otherwise, standstill and stop developing. After all the rape and pillage, now even the Church Authorities have intervened showing “concern” about the “impact” on the community – perhaps God does not look favourably on Towers of Babel reaching into his heaven!
One society even lamented that the Mriehel Towers will block the view of Mdina from Valletta, so presumably to be able to continue enjoying the view the solution is to spurn the opportunity of financial and economic development, employment and commercial and business development.
On top of it all, the Sliema Local Council, having aided and abetted all the gang-rape of Sliema by their indifferent silence over the years now proclaim a desire to protect its womanly virtue and have objected to the proposed Sliema development.
This is how the cut and thrust of things currently stand and plenty of fireworks are expected in the days to come.
If only they had listened to my old man Frankie 55 years ago – things today would surely be different!