The economic growth we have experienced over the past years is the result of our country creating the right climate for businesses to adapt, operate and seize new diverse opportunities in the global marketplace. The tourism industry has been a major player in contributing towards generating economic prosperity.
For the country to continue along this pathway, it requires a solid planning framework which can accommodate the needs of today and anticipate trends and the demands of tomorrow. Locally, over these past years, we have witnessed how niche tourism has created a demand in the evolution of boutique hotels around Malta. If the Planning Authority was rigid in its approach, Malta might have missed out on this opportunity. Our planning framework anticipated this demand and created the necessary planning policies for boutique hotels to flourish.
The boom in construction, which is a direct result of a healthy economy, does carry a potential ‘risk’. One must look at both sides of the coin. Development projects allow for ‘run down’ places to be regenerated, for the quality of life to improve and for new styles in building design to be appreciated. Without proper scrutiny and safeguards, such projects may also compromise the richness of our built heritage assets and natural ecological sites.
Take Valletta for example. With the correct strategic vision and planning scrutiny, today most of our Capital’s narrow streets, which until a few years back were ‘no-go areas’, have changed into quaint spaces with a mixture of tourism accommodation, restaurants, bars and offices. Valletta is once again becoming a vibrant city full of character and charm. This has been a win-win situation. Not only are we accommodating tourism demands but regenerating our city through the conversion of dilapidated palazzos and historical buildings. For years these buildings have been crying out to be restored and reused.
The crucial role and biggest challenge of the Planning Authority remains that of finding the correct balance between new proposed development and the Islands’ land-based natural and heritage assets. Getting it wrong will not only place the tourism industry at risk but worse off will be the future generation of this country whom we are also held accountable to. Our intention is never to stifle economic growth because it directly affects the quality and novelty of proposed projects but to encourage and support development projects that are sustainable in all aspects.
We, at the Planning Authority, need to be bold enough to distinguish between development projects which show the potential to ruin our natural and built heritage assets and those which complement, add value and improve the quality of life for our citizens. Our promise is to deliver!
Chairperson of the Executive Council,