The ongoing regeneration works in Bormla
In a discussion organised this morning by Friends of the Cottonera Forum, the forum said that it could not understand the "logic" behind the long-term planning for the Three Cities.
Forum spokesman Keith Caruana said that while Birgu's fortifications were being restored and its streets rehabilitated, Bormla and Isla "lag far behind and there seems to be no date when works might begin in Isla ... or end in Bormla".
Caruana argued that the best approach for the sustainable development of Cottonera was "not the present piecemeal and haphazard plans but developments where local residents have a leading role, development that truly focuses on future needs in a holistic manner".
He added that the lack of holistic planning was evident through the Dock 1 project. Caruana also described as "ridiculous" the fact that the Birgu and Bormla waterfronts were rehabilitated to attract visitors, but then lacked parking facilities. "These projects cannot be called sustainable if at the end of the day people are discouraged from visiting the area," Caruana said, adding that the Cottonera area needed a tourism policy that would be embedded in the National Tourism Policy.
"A draft National Tourism Policy has been published and although it recognises the need to spread tourism to village cores it does not come up with strategic initiatives as to how this will be achieved," Caruana said.
"Cottonera is undeveloped tourist-wise and would be the perfect place to plan a sustainable tourism industry aiming to attract high-end and cultural tourists to the area. However, we need to be careful and include local residents in such an initiative so that we will be ensuring long-term success of the tourism industry and we will not then end up with a superficial product. "
The forum also believed that the Cottonera area needed incentives for commercial investment.
"The warehouses at Dock 1 should be utilised as a display area of local culture and crafts. There are many organisations in Cottonera that need a suitable place to exhibit their wares," Caruana said. "The warehouses provide an excellent venue for these people to display their wares while visitors can also watch craftsmen carrying out their ages-old crafts in workshops."
Referring to recommendations put forward by UNESCO's World Heritage and Sustainable Development and the ICOMOS Declaration of Paris, environment NGO Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar said that the authenticity of the area was based on preserving historical, cultural and social memory.
"This creates social cohesion, well-being, creativity and economic appeal, factors which promote understanding between communities," FAA coordination Astrid Vella said.
She said that historic districts could be preserved by adapting new uses and functions to existing heritage, rather than the reverse, while helping users of historic buildings to adjust their expectations of modern living standards.
"The success of a town depends on maintaining a balance of social communities," Vella said, insisting that urban governance should integrate cultural and social diversity to suit the new reality.
Alternattiva Demokratika's spokesperson for the environment Carmel Cacopardo said that the regeneration of the Three Cities had not been achieved because it did not give sufficient weight to "the rehabilitation of the social fabric and regenerating economic activity".
According to the 2005 census statistics, out of the 5,520 residential units in the Three Cities, 1,289 were vacant.
"The physical decay of the Three Cities is not the cause but the effect of the social and economic neglect accumulated throughout the years," Cacopardo said.
He argued that sustainable development needed to focus on issues of poverty eradication and a greater integration of the three pillars of sustainable development - economy, social policy and the environment.
"Achieving sustainability at a local level signifies regenerating a damaged social texture and tackling social problems at the micro-level," Cacopardo said.