Revitalised square and shoreline put people first

The Mayor of Kalkara discusses with ‘The Journal’ the major regeneration project for the village centre, which was inaugurated on Friday evening.

The regeneration of Kalkara’s square and entire shoreline was a dream long anticipated by many, finally realised. Residents can now enjoy a beautiful square and shore, yet another testament to how local councils are driving positive change.

The Journal had a round of questions and answers with the Mayor of Kalkara, Wayne Aquilina.

Kalkara mayor, Wayne Aquilina.

What type of work has been completed in Kalkara square?

Since the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation (GHRC) initiated a revitalisation project in Kalkara, focus immediately shifted to the heart of the locality. This initiative garnered full support from the local council from its inception. Despite initial skepticism, today we celebrate the completion of a project spanning approximately 16,500 square metres. This achievement was realised despite numerous unforeseen challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic and logistical hurdles in transporting raw materials from overseas, compounded by the geographical challenge of accessing the area primarily from the sea.

Another challenge involved the reconstruction of a drainage system, notably the construction of a 6-meter-high bilge covering an area of 230 square meters, meticulously executed on-site, and submerged underwater, with all communication managed by specialised divers.

Today, we are giving back to Kalkara an area that’s been greatly improved: a square with a pedestrian zone covering about 300 square metres, a 650-metre-long shore with a 5-metre width, 250 meters of porphyry paving encircling the square. Additionally, there are new playground facilities spanning 300 square metres, complemented by the natural charm of 23 spruce and oak trees at the centre of the square, and 40 tamarisk trees along the shore, supported by an irrigation system. Moreover, we’ve added 44 recreational benches, introduced a new street lighting system, and installed a security camera network around the square. We’ve also laid down approximately 15 kilometres of underground services and paved 4,500 square metrees of road, including a new shoreline route.

Why was the need felt to do so?

This is the largest infrastructural project ever undertaken in Kalkara in recent years. The last major work in the area dates to the 1990s. Kalkara has since then evolved significantly, and life in the square is undergoing transformation. In my role as Mayor, I feel the need for safe spaces where people can enjoy themselves without the intrusion of cars. Although this entails a shift in mentality, I believe everyone will recognise the necessity for more tranquility in the heart of the village. My joy stems from witnessing elderly people engaging in conversation, children playing, and families enjoying the square, rather than the hustle and bustle of traffic and exhaust fumes. These are the values I hold dear for a village like Kalkara, and I pledge to continue nurturing them through my work. Now, with such a revitalised square, I look forward to taking the next step towards creating a livelier and more dynamic public space.

How have you ensured collaboration in carrying out the work?

When I assumed office as Mayor in 2019, plans for the project were already in place. The main challenge was translating those plans into action. Kalkara residents knew of this project for some time, but doubts lingered about its feasibility. Hence, our initial challenge was to engage with the Government, the GHRC, and all other relevant stakeholders to instill confidence that this project would indeed materialise. Seeing work vehicles arrive on site was a turning point, as it made people believe in the project. Together with my fellow councillors and the local council administration, I maintained continuous communication with all stakeholders. I frequently visited the worksites, attended progress meetings, and ensured the local council remained the primary point of contact for residents, businesses, and organisations. We proposed ideas on behalf of the community, including the installation of bollards around the square for added safety.

What are the main challenges facing today’s community?

Kalkara’s population now exceeds 3,100 people. The biggest challenge is preserving the village’s identity amidst development and progress. This is a priority for me. Kalkara must not lose its essence. While we push for essential projects like shoreline regeneration, it is crucial to maintain the village’s character.

As a result of our efforts this term, we have faced challenges. For instance, maintaining newly added gardens and recreational areas in top condition presents a daily challenge. Changing mindsets is another ongoing struggle. We’ve grown accustomed to using personal vehicles for everything, but as we invest in community transport services, we must strive to reach more people and foster a sense of identity and love for one’s village.

Every day, I commit to not underestimating our potential. Kalkara holds immense promise, but as I strive to unlock that potential, I’m adamant that our village’s beauty and charm must not be sacrificed for ulterior motives or at the expense of its residents.

How is the local council addressing the needs of the elderly and young people in the community?

Kalkara boasts a diverse population, comprising both elderly long-time residents and young families who have recently made it their home. We aim for balance; I never want Kalkara to become merely an entertainment hub for young people, but I welcome new businesses and concepts that contribute to the community’s well-being.

It’s heartening to see young people enjoying what Kalkara has to offer. Simultaneously, we’re dedicated to enhancing facilities for the elderly. This term, we’ve worked to provide more open spaces for them to stroll or relax by the sea, introduced free transport services, initiated the Community Police service to enhance safety, implemented the School Grannies programme, and invested in a new community clinic and public library to promote reading among the elderly. These efforts are aimed at addressing the needs of all members of our community, ensuring they continue to live harmoniously in Kalkara.

The School Grannies programme in action.

Main photo: DOI

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