Mr Michael Cohen, President of the local Councils Association, takes a few minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down with Krista Micallef Trigona and discuss the role of the Association as well as the relationship it enjoys with MEPA.
“Up until recently, the relationship between MEPA and the Local Councils, was strictly business based, whereby MEPA would simply send permitting applications to the respective Local Council; there was no form of discussion,” Mr Cohen starts off as he discusses the relationship between Local Councils and the Authority.
However, Mr Cohen quickly continues to explain that the new approach that MEPA
Chairman, Austin Walker, has taken with Local Councils has resulted in a more efficient and friendlier service, enabling Local Councils and MEPA to work together more regularly and at a deeper level. In fact, as a direct result of the new impetus given to the relationship, meetings are held every month between the two authorities in which various issues are discussed.
“Since this communication initiative has been introduced, the results have proven to be very positive, bridging the confrontation that the two bodies once shared and also promoting better coordination and delivery which will prove to be more beneficial for the locality and its citizens,” he says.
And rightly so, especially when one considers that anyone looking to develop property within a given locality must deal with both bodies. Although the decision is finalised by MEPA, the impact that planning and developing has on the locality, is discussed with the respective Local Councils, making sure that the community is not impacted on in a negative way.
As part of the role that the Local Council plays, environ-mental protection and education are two of the things that they must see to. “It is our responsibility to make sure that dumping is controlled. We are taking action on recycling as well as the importance of reusing materials that are still in a good condition. For example, we collect wooden pallets and construct pots, which we fill up with plants. We have also invested in placing bins in every corner of most streets to encourage people to make use of them as opposed to littering, which will thus keep the locality clean,” Mr Cohen says.
With regards to planning and permitting, Mr Cohen explains that “from an economic standpoint, freezing applications is not the ideal situation, but at the same time, we need to preserve the environment and our heritage.” He continues to express that “planning within the localities must improve in order for our localities to become more sustainable.”
In fact, studies are also being conducted by the Local Councils in order to see how they can become more sustainable. So far, eleven localities have taken part in such studies.
The Local Council is there to represent the community and its citizens therefore a relationship between the two bodies must be maintained. “In the case of smaller localities, it is easier to keep personal contacts. In the case of larger communities, mail shots are sent once a month and magazines are distributed twice to three times a year in order to maintain contact with the citizens and to keep them involved with what is going on within the Local Council,” he concludes.