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Residents of Marsaskala, along with council members and Moviment Graffitti, have spoken out against an urban design contest launched by the Malta Tourism Authority aimed at regenerating the locality, claiming it’s just a facade for “mass-development plans that would forever ruin the character of our village.”

The Marsaskala Regeneration Design Contest was launched last month and encouraged engineers, architects and urban planners to submit proposals to make the area more attractive for tourists in the future. 

However, with the locality already subject to a number of ongoing construction projects, residents and council members gathered today in retaliation to the contest, proposing instead that a period of consultation be opened whereby all residents are able to voice their concerns. 

“We value our quality of life, the relatively quiet character of our village and our community, and do not subscribe to the mantra of ‘development at all cost’,” a press release read.

“These projects and others are a detriment to many, and we feel ignored but are determined to be heard.”

A number of controversial projects have haunted the locality, including the proposed development of a third water polo pitch, an apartment complex at the site of the former Jerma Palace Hotel and the American University of Malta campus at Żonqor.

Residents and council members claimed that such proposals were done in secret, with the establishment of a hand-picked sub-committee headed by mayor Mario Calleja and chaired by Ray Abela. 

The sub-committee was eventually dissolved following public pressure, but the distrust in local authorities remains.

“This sub-committee was found to be functioning behind residents’ backs, with no terms of reference, and illegally headed by a chairperson who was not a member of the local council. Significantly, this sub-committee was liaising directly with other government agencies, including the MTA and Infrastructure Malta,” the press release read.

“Not having achieved their plans through the subcommittee, we have strong reason to suspect that they are now choosing another channel – that of the MTA, currently headed by Johann Buttigieg, known for his strong links to business interests.”

Residents fear that the “development at all cost” attitude is a detriment to many and will result in a declining quality of life similar to that experienced in other localities such as “Paceville, Buġibba and St Paul’s Bay, clear examples of poor planning writ large.”

Instead of a competition, residents and council members called for a period of consultation whereby stakeholders from all backgrounds will have the opportunity to voice their concerns and make suggestions as to what the future of Marsaskala should look like.

“Every opportunity needs to be created for any interested resident and visitor to communicate aspirations and ideas in various fora, for these to be appropriately considered and evaluated in the act of drawing up plans for Marsascala’s future,” the press release ended.

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