Finding our balance

A responsiveness to both past planning decisions and current community needs.

Local plans are statutory documents prepared by the Planning Authority that provide a framework for development within specific geographic areas across the Maltese islands. These plans set out detailed guidelines on how land can be used and developed, including what can be built, where, and how. They delineate different zones such as residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and areas of conservation, helping to guide decisions on individual planning applications.

In 2006, a significant event in the Maltese planning landscape was the implementation of the rationalisation scheme for development zones. This process adjusted the areas designated for development, and significantly extended some boundaries to incorporate additional land for construction and development purposes.

Tal-Bebbux, Żurrieq

Fast forward to 2024. In Żurrieq, the Government declared that a plot of government-owned land known as Tal-Bebbux will be dedicated solely to socially beneficial projects. This decision follows the local council’s recommendations to the Planning Authority concerning road layouts, usage, and building heights in the area. The land, incorporated into the development zone as part of the 2006 rationalisation exercise, remains government property. The government is now committed to determining which projects are necessary for social purposes and community benefit, with further discussions planned with the Żurrieq local council to shape future submissions to the Planning Authority.

Bulebel

In Bulebel, what was once designated for industrial development will continue to serve its original purpose as agricultural land. Prime Minister Robert Abela confirmed this during a political event in Marsaxlokk recently, stating: “Today I am in a position to confirm that the local plan for the Bulebel Industrial Zone will be modified to ensure once and for all that there will be no development that affects agricultural land.”

Ħondoq ir-Rummien

In Ħondoq ir-Rummien, Gozo, the Government has been pivotal in preventing the development of a yacht marina and a tourist village, projects proposed under pre-2013 administrations. This land, which had been included in the local plans during former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s tenure, remains a focal point of Gozitan and Maltese heritage. Qala Mayor Paul Buttigieg praised the steadfast attitude in preserving Ħondoq.

A nuanced balance

The ongoing evolution of local planning in Malta reflects a nuanced balance between development and preservation across various locations in Malta. These examples highlight a responsiveness to both past planning decisions and current community needs. The shift from the 2006 rationalisation’s expansionist policies to more recent protective measures illustrates a growing commitment to sustainable development. This involves prioritising social projects, preserving agricultural land, and safeguarding cultural heritage, all of which cater to the long-term interests of local communities.

As Malta continues to develop, the focus remains on ensuring that growth is balanced with the essential preservation of the country’s unique landscapes and communal values, ensuring a harmonious future where development and preservation coexist effectively.

Main photo: Efrem Efre

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