Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Discussing the bridge

Times of Malta, 28 August 2017

Would it not be great to walk from Sliema to Valletta on a pedestrian bridge? When I read about this proposal, I gave it an instinctive thumbs-up.
The proposal, by London-based celebrated architect Konrad Xuereb, is reportedly estimated to cost about €8 million and would link Tignè Point to the Valletta gun post. It would add another option for transport between the two localities.
If another proposal, this time by AX Holdings is approved, there would also be added transport options through a tunnel beneath Valletta, which connects Sliema to Cottonera by ferry.
Such multi-modal forms of connection are commonplace in many towns and cities across the world and they can offer practical solutions to combat Malta’s traffic challenges. Interestingly, this newspaper reports (August 23) that, about 60 years ago, a cable-car project was proposed across Marsamxett Harbour, from Sliema Ferries to Hastings Garden, in Valletta, with Manoel Island in between. As we know, this project never took off.
But let’s go back to the future.
Architect Xuereb is arguing that his 300-metre-long bridge proposal will “mean less pollution, fewer people using their cars and [have a] long-term benefit for Valletta, which will feel more connected to places in Sliema”.
Let us assume the government or local councils are interested in developing this public project, what should be the way forward? I would argue for a mix of public consultation and evidence-based policymaking.
In the first instance, funding possibilities would have to be sought for. Given that the government is committed to upgrade Malta’s road network over a seven-year period, would a pedestrian bridge fit within this remit? I think it should, especially when Malta is committed to develop and encourage modal shifts towards alternative forms of transport.
Alternatively, the government can vote specific capital funding or apply for EU funds, the latter also being possible through local council involvement. In the previous legislature, the government spending on capital projects was relaxed, so perhaps this time around the trend can be shifted in a sustainable manner.
Cost-benefit analyses should also be commissioned to verify investment potential of the project, given possible savings elsewhere.
What about the technicalities of the project? Environmental impact studies would have to be carried out on the marine environment, wind impact and other ecological features. This would help stakeholders discuss the issue in an informed manner. This should be so obvious but, very often, we see quite the opposite, for example within the social media, where some people excel in appointing themselves experts of everything. The technical possibilities of development projects require much more than trigger-happy Facebook chats and impulsive decisions by vote-hunters.
This is not to say that public participation is not important. Far from it. Indeed, the participation of the public and various stakeholders can help broaden the debate and create a sense of ownership and belonging to the project, should it proceed.
Local councils directly implicated in this project should have a key role in this regard. The Valletta and Sliema local councils comprise the directly-elected representatives of the respective localities and are directly involved in the day-to-day issues facing residents, businesses, tourists and others.
Let me mention just one example that readily comes to mind. The public beach under Tignè Point is becoming increasingly popular among locals and tourists alike. How will this be impacted by the development of a bridge?
Sliema and Valletta are also characterised by the increased use of bicycles and hats off to that. Given that bicycles comprise clean, light transport, would it be possible to give access to cyclists on the bridge? In the affirmative, what boundaries and limits should be established on usage?
It is by now evident that this development proposal would require a social impact assessment. Mixed sociological and other social-scientific methods should consequently analyse, monitor and manage the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of the proposal. It would give considerable importance to dimensions such as culture, perceptions, community, health, well-being and personal and property rights.
The bridge proposal could indeed serve as a case study of truly transparent, democratic and sustainable policymaking. Malta is crying for such processes.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Influenza Vaccines 2017

Click on image for larger version

Tas-Sliema wirt u niesha

Regulations and Application for Gieh Tas-Sliema 2017 are being distributed door to door and can be also collected at the Local Council office in Depiro street, Tas-Sliema.
Tas-Sliema, Wirt u Niesha 2017 will take place on Wednesday 25 October 7pm at the Salesians Theatre

Monday, August 21, 2017

How to keep track of development applications

Journalist James Debono presents an easy guide on how to use the revamped website of the Planning Authority.

Click here for info.

You may also wish to check Claire Bonello's guide on how to write to the Planning Authority for any queries related to development projects.

Click here for info.

How to report construction infringements: Click here - 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Circular van service for the Sliema community

The Tas-Sliema Local Council is providing the service of a Circular Van for a trial period of 1 month as a pilot project starting this Wednesday 16th August 2017 up to Friday 15th September 2017.

The service is free of charge. Its intent is to facilitate mobility within the locality. The route is the one shown here, whose Stops will be the existing Bus Stops.

The service is being provided every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1000hrs and at 1400hrs.

New information with regards to the Circular Van Service

Route:  Old College Street, Imrabat Street, Rudolph Street, St Mary Street, Madonna tas-Sacro Cuor Street, The Strand, Tigne Seafront, Qui-Si-Sana Seafront, Tower Road, Dingli Street, Dingli Circus, Tower Road and stops at the corner with Old College Street

Stops:  - Old College Street c/w Nazzarene Street
-          Imrabat Street c/w Old College Hill
-          Rudolph Street opposite Anglican Church
-          Rudolph Street c/w St James Street
-          Rudolph Street in front of ex-Imperial Hotel
-          St Mary Street lower part c/w Manwel Dimech Street
-          Madonna tas-Sacro Cuor Street c/w The Strand
-          The Strand near Square Deal
-          Tigne Seafront in front of Nazzarene Church
-          Tigne Seafront in front of the Fortina Hotel
-          Qui-Si-Sana Seafront corner with Dragut Street
-          Qui-Si-Sana Seafront in front of New York Best
-          Tower Road near Preluna Hotel
-          Tower Road in front of ex Tower Palace Hotel
-          Tower Road in front of Diplomat Hotel
-          Dingli Circus

-          Tower Road in front of Expressions

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Planning Authority has failed

A few days ago I was interviewed by Kevin Schembri Orland, The Malta Independent, about the Planning Authority, development and the property market. You can check it out here.