NEWS | Sunday, 14 October 2007

Marina Arrigo backs Labour councillor’s Sliema plans


Sliema mayor Marina Arrigo is backing a plan proposed by Labour councillor Martin Debono for the Strand promenade but has objected to the publishing of the same plan in the forthcoming edition of the council’s magazine, distributed for free to all Sliema households.
Arrigo confirmed with MaltaToday that the Sliema council approved Debono’s plans during a meeting held the 19 September, but claimed that these plans cannot be published before being sent to the Malta Transport Authority (ADT).
Debono’s plans are an alternative to the ones drafted by the ADT for the council, which were published in MaltaToday in August.
Unlike the ADT’s plans, Debono is proposing a public piazza on reclaimed land while the authority wants to turn the popular Ferries into a simply roadway leading to the Midi project, the luxury development on the Tigné peninsula.
“The ADT plans change the strand into a major traffic intersection as dirty and ugly as the one at Msida,” Debono said, expressing disappointment that the new plan won’t be published in the forthcoming magazine.
“When I criticised the ADT plan at the council I was asked by council to come up with something better,” Debono said, who added that his alternative was liked by all councillors who anonymously approved them.
“I told them a few days later to include the proposed plan in the magazine so that we can show the councillors are working together and are being proactive, not just criticising.”
Debono claimed Nationalist mayor Marina Arrigo, PN councillor Nicky Dimech, Labour councillor Maryanne Aquilina and AD councillor Michael Briguglio agreed.
“Later I get an email that there was a majority wanting to keep the plans out of the next issue of the magazine.”
Debono suspects the Nationalist councillors are now changing their minds on the plans. “It is a pity the mayor and most of the PN councillors are being manipulated in such an obvious manner. The PN should allow councillors to act for the good of Sliema and its residents and not for vested interest.”
But Marina Arrigo denies this is the case and insists the council still backs Debono’s plan.
“I can assure you that there was no change in mind of any councillor,” she told MaltaToday.
She confirmed that Debono had asked to have the plans published on the council magazine, soon to be issued. “As normal practice, all councillors were asked for their opinion on the matter. It was then decided that the discussion on the magazine would be inserted in the next council meeting’s agenda.”
The postponement will however mean it will be impossible to publish the plans in the next issue.
Arrigo also cited “ethical reasons” for not publishing the plans as yet. “The ADT also sent the council their plans and invited the council to submit its proposals. Thus, I find it ethical to submit the plans to ADT before publishing the plans on the magazine.”

New plans
The Sliema council’s new plan includes a large seafront piazza stretching from the area near Manwel Dimech Street up to Tower Road on land reclaimed from the sea. Debono has also proposed a short-stay yacht marina at the end of the promenade near the Fortina Hotel.
Back in February 2006 it was Transport Minister Jesmond Mugliett who announced a Lm1 million land reclamation project to create more parking spaces at the Strand. The announcement was made during a meeting with angry shop owners like Grace Borg, who protested against the loss of parking space.
The ADT’s plans did not include any land reclamation, however. Martin Debono claimed the government wants “to divert business from the Strand to the new town centres.”
Plans sent by the ADT to MaltaToday in August show that cars and buses driving from St Julian’s to Gzira will have to go around the entire Tigné and Qui-Si-Sana peninsula to reach the Strand, because Bisazza Street will become completely traffic-free.
The project would change the Strand’s physical features, turned into a dual carriageway and three large roundabouts by Manwel Dimech Street, Tower Road (near the Magic Kiosk) and opposite the Fortina.
If the ADT has its way, the small public piazza in the middle of the Strand will be removed but for the first time pedestrians can walk and shop in a traffic-free Bisazza Street – one of the busiest streets in Sliema where traffic to Valletta passes from.
Martin Debono’s alternative takes in to account the street’s pedestrianisation but proposes land reclamation for the loss in parking spaces.


Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click here

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email