AGM 2009 report
English version of introductory speech
Welcome and thank you all for accepting our invitation to come to this first Sliema Residents Association / Ghaqda Residenti Sliema General Meeting.
The SRA saw its beginning last March when a group of Sliema residents got together to try and improve the situation in Sliema in response to the ongoing neglect and destruction seen within Sliema over the past 20 years.
Although a lot has been lost, there still is plenty to save. After the first meeting of this core group, it was decided to set up a Sliema Residents Association.
After a couple of discussions, an initial resident's meeting was held on Thursday 21st May 2009 at Centru Sant Antnin with the kind permission of the Franciscan friars of the Sacro Cuor Parish. More than forty residents attended this first meeting.
The evident support gave us the courage to pursue our work which has now led to today's first Annual General Meeting held on 22nd October 2009. At this first resident's meeting, some volunteers, who were strangers to the founders, offered to be on the provisional committee.
The main aim of the provisional committee was to prepare all the necessary documentation and policies prior to a formal launch of the new voluntary body. This meeting we are holding today is the first Annual General Meeting. Since May, we have drafted and discussed our statute, we have registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organizations and we have also registered with the Data Protection Commission. So with this first AGM, we have now a complete and official association to represent those Sliema residents who have already joined and the many more who will join us in the future.
The mission statement of the SRA is 'to safeguard, conserve and improve the quality of life of all Sliema residents'. Therefore it is committed to represent, and promote the communal interests of the residents of Sliema, to live in a safe, healthy, peaceful and decent environment.
To back the above mission statement, apart from preparing all the documentation necessary to establish a recognized association, the committee members have started tangible work so as to ameliorate the quality of life of the Sliema Residents.
One of the major evils aflicting the Sliema area and its surrounding towns over which the SRA has publicly raised concerns is pollution. Through the monitoring stations affixed by MEPA in several locations around Sliema, it is a known fact that Sliema surpasses the acceptable EU levels of NO2 and Benzene, the former causing respiratory problems like asthma while the latter can cause cancer. When low grade diesel was available on the market, the levels of Sulpher compounds (also causing respiratory illnesses) was also above the EU acceptable limits within Sliema. Another highly talked about pollutant, which is not monitored in Sliema but is caused by both traffic and the construction industry, is the fine particle PM10 which floats in the air. This again affects badly the respiratory system, especially in children.
This pollution problem is a side affect of unsustainable development which in turn is contributing to over population within Sliema, increasing vehicular traffic and other related problems. So our main target is to halt the increase of residential units within Sliema thus reducing pollution problems associated with construction and also cap the numbers of resident vehicles. However as more than 25% of all residential units within Sliema stand empty, the number of cars based in Sliema is set to rise further even is no more units are built merely as these empty properties become occupied.
By controlling further development and protecting the gardens and open spaces ("protected enclaves"), a buffer can be created to absorb pollutants and improve social and mental stresses whilst other remedies are explored and implemented.
A second issue which will be tackled simultaneously is to find alternative modes of transport which will reduce the number of car trips by both residents and visitors alike.
To mitigate the problems affecting the Sliema area, the SRA has formally objected to a number of developments, mainly those engulfing large open spaces and gardens.
The first objection was against a massive development proposal over Villa Bonici with over 400 objections having been forwarded to MEPA.
Another objection was made against building over an internal 500sq meter garden in the Parisio street area.
An objection was made against the redevelopment of the Forestals building which would have seen it go up to 10 floors from the 5 floors it is today, cutting the seafront off from a swathe of housing behind to the detriment of ventilation as well as the views of all.
SRA has also backed the residents living in the High Street area against a development over the gardens of Villa Degiorgio.
Another objection was made against a restaurant in the Qui-Si-Sana area which is incompatible with its location.
We would have liked to make more objections on several developments going around Sliema, but unfortunately, lacked timely tip offs and need more resources. With help from concerned residents, SRA can expand from its core group of people into a force to be reckoned with.
With regards the Villa Bonici site, the SRA has made an in depth study of the site in question and presented this report to MEPA to start proceedings to schedule the whole property if possible. A creative plan has been discussed to convert the area into an open space that can be enjoyed by the public.
In addition, proposals are being formulated to keep this last low lying perimeter area as such (although in improved condition) so as to allow fresh air to enter the heart of Sliema and improve the views from the Savoy area and Manoel Island.
The above and other measures where well publicised in a number of press releases which were issued every two or three weeks to all local media. Several articles on various issues have been published, namely overdevelopment, pollution, the traffic problems and the controversial parking issue. Unfortunately due to the media's manipulation we were often mis-interpreted however we are pleased with the reaction and commotion that our articles have stirred. One needs only read the blogs on the Times of Malta website for instance. These articles have been instrumental in raising awareness of the problems not only within Sliema but also on a national scale. The SRA was also invited to participate in various other TV and radio programs
Other topics which the committee has started to tackle regard the nitty gritty problems which residents meet daily, making life that little bit more difficult and annoying. When the committee received such complaints, these were directly routed to the Local Council and followed up. Thanks to volunteers, a sub committee has now been set up to deal solely with such problems in a pro-active manner.
Apart from logging complaints reported by the residents themselves, this sub committee will go round Sliema taking photos and reporting findings. Significant issues noticed will then be reported to the Local Council and rectification sought. A word of causion however, the SRA is not a customer care organization with plenty of funds and resources. When we receive a complaint we expect the complainant to do his part as well. The SRA's work will be to back the member and act once the complainant has gone through the normal channels.
Another activity which the SRA took part actively in was the "Clean Siema Campaign" which was organised by the Sliema Local Council and local Scout group. Members of the provisional committee and other SRA members took part in this event and we hope that this activity will be organized more often so that more residents will be aware and able to participate actively.
To end with, there are many more things which need attention but these cannot all be dealt with by the seven committee members of the SRA and a handful of volunteers. Running an association like this requires hours of researching, typing, reporting, e-mailing etc. which can be made easier if more volunteers can give us a helping hand occasionally. It's useless complaining and grumbling then being inactive. Volunteering can range from a mere hour a month to up to 3 or 4 hours a day - it is entirely up to you! The more help we attain, the better SRA can serve Sliema so I urge you to offer some time. Please also consider registering as a member of the SRA because we will gain strength from numbers and secondly because then we can keep you informed of developments and campaigns.
Once again I thank for your attendance and for your support.