Strategy for Valletta is ‘shortsighted’ – V18 study

The strategy for Valletta was a “shortsighted view” on the future of the city and was more about generating investment than helping liveability, a V18 study found.

The findings are part of a research plan by the Valletta 2018 foundation, which had set up a research department to gauge the impact of its stint at the helm of the European Capital of Culture.

The study, with architect Antoine Zammit as lead author, found “strong proof” that Valletta was transforming from a residential to a catering destination.

“The Valletta research reveals a number of lost opportunities and the decline of involvement due to policies,” it noted.

Most regeneration schemes spurred on by V18 did not have explicit policies on community participation, nor did they incorporate it into their strategic planning.

Research focused on four areas within Valletta that underwent regeneration: Strait Street, the Valletta market (Suq tal-Belt), the historic Biċċerija (slaughterhouse) quarter and fine arts museum Muża.

The evidence showed most regeneration schemes did not have explicit policies on community participation, nor did they incorporate it into their strategic planning, the report said.

“Overall, the impression is that community involvement is often assumed to be taking place, and is approved of in principle, but is marginal in practice, with much loss of effectiveness in regeneration schemes,” the report added.

The research spanned over the period 2015-2018.

The study recommended that local development initiatives would not serve as a “substitute” for top-down approaches.

It found a disconnect between the four projects, noting a “lack of all-inclusive vision” for cultural infrastructure in Valletta.

The Valletta market regeneration project was a “missed opportunity”, the researchers noted, criticising the “over-appropriation of the public space”. The project, unveiled last year, could have been used to enhance rather than detract from the nature of the public space even further.

Strait Street, they noted, was taken over by commercial entities, making it less walkable but livelier.

Construction work impeded the flow of pedestrians there, apart from accessibility concerns because of stairs and inclined and uneven ground levels.

The research applauded ongoing restoration works but said most of the buildings that had undergone renovations were boutique hotels. This highlighted the role of tourists in the area and how it was losing a residential feel, the report remarked

“The four sites have given an overall indication of the changing character of Valletta – one wherein more external visitors are being accommodated,” the researchers concluded.

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