Gozo organisations welcome stone façade policy

Last Updated on Monday, 12 February, 2024 at 2:05 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Gozo Business Chamber, the Gozo Tourism Association and the Għal Għawdex Forum have all welcomed the announcement by the Ministry for Gozo and Planning of a new design policy for the island of Gozo.

This would see the introduction of stone facades for all new buildings on the island, including the back of buildings which are at the perimeter of building zones, the Gozo Business Chamber said. The Chamber “also reacts positively to Gozo being considered as a test-bed for this new policy, given its small size, distinctiveness, and homogeneity. It believes that this is an important first step whereby a regional outlook is adopted to policy making, not one which is national, but one which is place-based, and which takes into consideration the context of the island and preserves its distinct characteristics.”

Many a times Gozo has been impacted negatively from national policies which did not take into consideration the particular characteristics and needs of this island region, the Chamber said. Consequently the Chamber believes that this initiative should pave the way for further consultation with all the stakeholders “on such an important aspect as planning, where clear rules and guidelines are required, underlined by a sustainable vision for the island.” The Chamber believes that this initiative is the first building block towards a holistic planning perspective for the island which takes into considerations its needs, preserves the environment, and creates an equitable situation for all.

“While this is a very delicate balance the Chamber believes that through collaboration between all the stakeholders involved this can be achieved,” it said.

The Gozo Tourism Association, on its part, “notes with satisfaction and welcomes the policy decision by the Minister for Gozo and Planning, Clint Camilleri, as announced and reported in the local media, whereby new buildings in Gozo will need to have their facades built from Maltese stone, according to a policy that will come into force shortly.”

This policy decision is in line with the Gozo Tourism Association’s views on development in Gozo, it said.

“During the past years the Association has advocated that development in Gozo should be in line and respect the characteristics and the urban fabric of the Island. It is through these attributes that Gozo has positioned and established itself as a distinct tourism destination within the Maltese archipelago and elsewhere. The farmhouse concept developed years ago as well as the recent development of several boutique hotels all built restored and renovated in local stone were the catalysts for a niche type of accommodation synonymous with the island of Gozo,” the Gozo Tourism Association said.

The Gozo Tourism Association said that it “has always been in favour of development that respects the character of the existing buildings and environment and that enhances Gozo as a unique tourist destination. Therefore, this decision is a breath of fresh air in the development frenzy taking place presently on Gozo.”

This policy decision, it said, is also in line with the Gozo Regional Development Authority’s recently launched development strategy for Gozo, “rightly themed ‘Gozo an Island of Villages’, whereby it clearly states that Gozo has distinctive characteristics, both physical, as well as social, that form part of Gozo’s heritage and identity.” The Gozo Tourism Association said it hopes that this new direction will be one of the building blocks on which future development on Gozo will continue to drive the economy forward in a different sustainable and enduring way

The Għal Għawdex Forum welcomed the introduction of stone facades in Gozo buildings saying that it “believes that this decision represents a positive step in the right direction, leading to a sustainable balance between the need to drive economic prosperity and protecting and preserving the island’s heritage and long-term distinctiveness.”

The Forum notes “with satisfaction that this initiative, which is clearly reflected in the Forum’s initial policy proposals which called for the use of traditional materials for all new buildings, with traditional limestone or constituted stone being made compulsory on all facades, is coming into effect.”

However, the Forum notes that whilst this is a step in the right direction, this decision should be but the first step in the introduction of other measures which should lead towards a regional planning approach for the island, and for the adoption of more policies in this respect.

Għal Għawdex also noted with satisfaction that this decision comes “shortly after the partial implementation of one of the key Għal Għawdex fiscal proposals in the last budget. Within this context it again asks the Ministry for Finance to consider all its fiscal proposals which would incentivise good and sustainable development.”

The Forum believes that all these proposals and initiatives complement each other to safeguard the environment of the island. “All this, however, does not diminish in any way the need for the strict enforcement of both the letter and the spirit of current policies, rules and regulations. Such an approach will eliminate planning loopholes, and thus lead the way for correct decision-making and interpretation.”

The Forum believes that this, together with other initiatives, would begin to instil the belief that there is some commitment to respect the built and natural environment of the island, “bringing relief and hope back to its residents, high quality tourists and all the people who love the island for all its distinctive qualities.”

The Għal Għawdex Forum is the collective voice of environmental NGOs Din l-Art Ħelwa Għawdex, Għawdix and Wirt Għawdex, Gozo Business Chamber, Gozo Tourism Association, Gozo University Group and Reġjun Għawdex representing the fourteen local councils in Gozo.

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