Saturday, December 14, 2013

Education, Accessibility, Environment

Michael Briguglio - Sliema Local Council Magazine - December 2013

Education is a priority for Sliema Local Council. By education, we don’t simply mean the awarding of certificates, but we are increasingly referring to various life skills and abilities which can be learned in an inclusive atmosphere, where participants share a sense of belonging to their locality.

During 2013, Sliema Local Council was busy organizing various educational courses. These included computer courses for children and adults, first aid, drama, nutrition, breast cancer awareness, alongside others such as the popular courses within the Lifelong learning scheme, which varied from languages to physical activity, with alot of other courses in between. The Lifelong learning scheme in Sliema is the 2nd most popular in Malta, and courses are fully accessible for persons with physical disability.

Investment in the public library in Blanche Huber Street ensured internet and Wi-fi access in addition to an ever expanding collection of books. Story-telling sessions for children, on Saturdays between 9am and 10am, are now in their second year. The library is also fully accessible for persons with physical disability.

Indeed, the Local Council is giving priority to the need for universal access to public services and infrastructure. Works on pavements, gardens and beaches are examples in this regard. Other plans for the future include having more accessible swings and playing areas.

We are also one of the only five local councils to assign dog-friendly beaches. Part of the beach in Tigne’ near Fortina hotel has been assigned for this purpose, and by next summer we intend to have it better equipped.

Sliema Local Council has also been meeting the Bicycle Advocacy Group to increase awareness on the rights of pedestrians and bicycle users. We are doing our utmost to ensure safety for everyone, yet it is important to point out that we depend on approval from Transport Malta for certain initiatives which we are proposing.

As regards the environment, one main initiative by the local council was our official feedback to MEPA for the Local Plans public consultation process. Amongst others, Sliema Council expressed its opposition to more large-scale development similar to those at Tigne’ Point and Fort Cambridge; that the coast should be free from further development and should be fully accessible to the public; that permitted building heights should not increase, and should actually decrease in certain cases; that the area near the Police Station should be revived so as to function as a community centre with public services; that a park-and-ride scheme to Sliema be introduced at Manoel Island; that Tigne’ seafront should remain residential rather than be commercialized; that development in urban conservation areas should not simply preserve facades, but also important internal characteristics; that more buildings be scheduled; and that MEPA dedicates more funds to compensate for the impact on development in Sliema.

We expect MEPA to give the Local Council proposals the importance they deserve.