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Foreigners investing in Gozo must be respected -Alternattiva

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Published on Dec 26, 2007

Speaking at a Press Conference in Xaghra , Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson, Dr Harry Vassallo said that changes in planning laws in the run up to the 2003 election are now threatening more than our architectural heritage.

"Nationalist governments have treated the construction industry like a spoilt child spoiling it even when it means evident harm being done to it and to all others." Dr Vassallo said. "The 2003 amendments to planning regulations exposed thousands of existing properties to redevelopment by the relaxation of height limitations. This has renewed the building boom in new settled areas and made serious inroads in all village cores" Dr Vassallo added.

"Those who have restored houses of character at great expense, often find that the houses next door are to be redeveloped depriving them of a valued urban context. Worse still the relaxation of height limitations has upset the balance in all towns and villages damaging skylines and depriving thousands of people of the privacy they had enjoyed for generations" Dr Vassallo said.
"The change in regulations while benefiting some people has caused considerable financial damage to many others" Vassallo said. "Those who bought a property knowing that they could not be overlooked or put in the shade by neighbouring properties and have been shocked to discover that this has now changed, find that the value of their property has dropped significantly. They have in effect been deceived by the law and have no remedy" Dr Vassallo said.

"While this is a serious concern of many thousands of Maltese citizens it is of particular concern to foreign residents who constitute a growing and very significant economic factor particularly in Gozo" Dr Vassallo said. "If Gozo continues to attract a significant number of foreign residents, it can look forward to benefiting from their investment into the Gozo economy not only of the capital necessary to acquire a property but also of their incomes and the expenditure of their guests. Such new sources of income are of great value in helping the Gozitan tourism sector to overcome the low season difficulties faced by all hospitality enterprises." Dr Vassallo said.
"With this in mind the uncertainty in planning regulations, changed at every election and without serious stakeholder consultation is not only in violation of EU law but also threatening a strategic new source of revenue for our economy" Dr Vassallo said. "We cannot expect to be able to attract new foreign residents while we regularly cheat those who commit to our country." Dr Vassallo said.
"Alternattiva Demokratika calls upon government to review the changes made in planning laws since 2003 in view of the wholly unnecessary damage being done to the urban fabric of all Maltese and Gozitan towns and villages. " Dr Vassallo said that Alternattiva Demokratika will also be taking action with regard to electorally motivated changes to planning laws and regulations carried out in view of the forthcoming elections.

"Instead of constantly spoiling the speculator lobby, the government should take stock of the situation and realize that those who have invested the Lm25 billion in property in Malta deserve respect, that with 23% of all properties standing vacant there is no need, no excuse and indeed a danger in increasing the number of vacant properties" Dr Vassallo said. "The situation demands that the government addresses the question of ever soaring property prices in an oversaturated market. In the present well-documented situation it would be irresponsible of government to continue to ignore the facts and worse to react as all previous governments have done by spoiling the speculators once more." Dr Vassallo said.

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