A total of 13 localities are set to benefit from over €1.5 million, made available to them through MEPA’s Urban Development Fund (UIF) after a contract was signed with the Authority today. The contract will cover the full financing of 19 projects which will improve the quality of life for residents living in these localities.
The ‘urban improvement’ projects that are to receive funding include the embellishment of public gardens and landscaping works in Birkirkara, Naxxar and Mellieħa, the development of a recreational park in Zurrieq, solar paneling grid system in Qala, upgrading of Qui-si-sana promenade in Sliema, paving works around a number of streets and pjazzas in Qormi, Gharb, Msida, Rabat, Mosta and Zurrieq, and the upgrading of a football ground in Birzebbuga.
Addressing the ceremony, Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, the Environment and Culture, Mario de Marco explained how the MEPA reform was addressing the pillars of efficiency, accountability, enforcement and consistency. He stressed that MEPA and local councils should continue to work together to ensure sustainable projects in our localities. Mario de Marco said that the Urban Improvement Fund brings with it opportunities for our towns and villages to invest in a more sustainable environment and improve the quality of life for residents, but not only, our localities deserve that their appearance is improved to continue developing their culture and identity. He also said that every village has its unique characteristics and therefore investing in our localities also means a value added for tourists visiting our country.
Mario de Marco also emphasized the continual need for better quality projects submitted by local councils through the Urban Improvement Fund (UIF). The Parliamentary Secretary said that it is necessary that each locality identifies the main sources that are causing air pollution; so that propose UIF projects by the local councils will be aimed at reducing pollution in our towns and villages. This too will ensure that our localities are becoming more sustainable.
Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Chris Said encouraged Local Councils to grab every opportunity that is there for the taking. He said that the Urban Improvement Fund is ‘only one of the tools that Local Councils have at their disposal and which enable them to invest in infrastructural projects.
Between 2009 and 2011, Local Councils will have received approximately 100 million euros through the annual financial allocation and through 23 different special financial schemes sponsored by the Parliamentary Secretariat and aimed specifically for them. These funds are being used for the implementation of 550 projects and initiatives in different localities around the island’.
Parliamentary Secretary Said also underscored the importance of European funds for Local Councils. MEUSAC is helping Local Councils formulate better projects and the success rate is phenomenal. At the start of 2010 it was envisaged that during the course of the year local councils would manage to tap six million euros; in reality they have managed to tap 14 million euros.
Perit Elena Borg Costanzi, who heads the committee which oversees these projects, said “To date, MEPA’s Urban Improvement Fund, which was launched in 2006, has successfully invested €7 million in over 180 projects.” She added “We are also constantly trying to come up with new ideas, seeking new improvements and to move our work into more holistic projects that open up more doors for local councils and government to expand their horizons.”
MEPA is committed to ensure that all funds are managed in a transparent and efficient manner and that Local Councils are benefiting from these funds to improve the level of sustainable development within their respective localities. The UIF has also created the opportunity for the development of a positive working relationship between the UIF Committee, Local Councils and other government agencies involved in the submission of the project proposals.
The finances available through the UIF come from levies imposed through the Development Planning Act and are usually payments that developers are obliged to make as part of a given development. The UIF uses a vetting system to assess projects which are submitted for consideration and which must include a certified estimate of costs, clearly stating how much funding is expected from the UIF. If the allocation for that particular locality is not enough to cover the total cost of the proposed project, the proposal must clearly demonstrate how the rest of the project is to be financed. All necessary permits and clearances for the project must also be obtained. MEPA is also seeking new ways to use the UIF in its bid to preserve, maintain and restore the historical core of Malta’s and Gozo’s villages and town centres, particularly through the implementation of pedestrianisation and conservation projects.