Sustainable development highlights the interconnections between different domains in that “Specific environmental issues together with the varied socioeconomic conditions that characterise the Mediterranean had – and are still having – a significant impact on sustainable development in the region” ( pg. 3). Development should not only be environmentally sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible. Development is socially sustainable when it creates liveable communities and supports social and cultural life. Interconnectedness and diversity are other pillars of social sustainability that aid in ensuring a good quality of life.
The involvement of the local community in environmental issues will lead to a better understanding of the environment. Local farmers have the best knowledge of the area they manage and its habitats and species, acquired through experiences of their predecessors. Hunters and trappers are unfortunately infamous for some illegal practices, however they often record and collect reliable data on migratory birds, not because they have an obligation, but because they follow generations of basic monitoring and custodianship. People that forage for certain wild produce are other local land users. The first seminar organised to educate local hunters and trappers on how to photograph birds by a local ornithologist, was held at The Cliffs Interpretation Centre.
The Cliffs Centre also acts as an education source; in promoting cutting and not pulling out of plants, it still has allowed continued practice of long-lived traditions; albeit to a small environmentally-friendly adjustment. The otherwise imposition of more daily management laws, prior to education, require daily enforcement and a drain on the economic resources of the country.
Planners have an important role in Sustainable Development. They concentrate minds on how best to invest resources in planning and provide stronger leadership across both public and private sectors. This includes politicians. This is what will allow us better to protect and enhance our environment and manage the change to a sustainable environment for the future. But we must also innovate, seeking to identify actual needs and prioritise public or private spend accordingly.
The concept of sustainability comprises “citizenship…democracy and governance… justice…cultural diversity, rural and urban development, economy, production and consumption patterns, corporate responsibility, environmental protection, natural resource management and biological and landscape diversity” (1, pg3).
Adaptive reuse, the process of reusing buildings or sites for another purpose other than thatfor initial construction, is crucial for conserving land and maintaining sustainability. Throughadaptive reuse, old unoccupied sites become appropriate areas for different landuses. In thecontext of the Maltese Islands, The Strategic Plan for theEnvironment and Development also highlights the principle of re-use of existing developedland and buildings, such as by “identifying degraded areas for integrated regeneration” (Thematic Objective 1) and “setting out a policy framework for culture-led regeneration programmes and projects (Thematic Objective 8). “Encouraging the reuse of existing structures worthy of conservation” is also highlighted (Rural Objective 4).
The regeneration of historic environments is based on understanding the character and value of the historic environment, whilst enhancing social sustainability and economic growth, such as through leisure, tourism and economic development. Regeneration is not only employed on the national level, but the local authority and private sectors also ensure long term conservation. Regeneration of historic environments encourages heritage tourism.
The building which houses The Cliffs Interpretation Centre had been a derelict 1960s building built by British RAF as a Tactical Air Navigation System (TACAN). In the construction of The Centre, the socio-cultural characteristics were respected since the creation of The Centre did not take ‘new’ land but was incorporated into a totally committed area. The original characteristics of the building were retained in the currently existing sustainable economic use of the Centre, such as in the restoration of the remaining rooms.
Planning and sustainability should be environmentally-friendly by considering the importance of conserving biodiversity in environmental regeneration projects. Such regeneration may also act as a source of education on the habitats and species found within the specific environment. Planning has to promote long-term sustainability such as of construction, siting of the development into already committed areas and direct involvement in the management of the important areas.
The planning system of the UK is similar to that of Malta, and there has been emphasis to use planning in delivering sustainable development, such as through the RTPI Education for Sustainable Development, A Manual for Schools. Moreover, Policy HE3 in Planning Policy Statement 5 in the UK, states that “Local development frameworks (LDF) should set out a positive, proactive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment…by virtue of…its potential to be a catalyst for regenerations in an area, in particular through leisure, tourism and economic development.”
In the long run, running costs exceed by far the construction costs. A simple example is a small tree…planting costs only €2 to €5 whilst taking care of it and watering it for at least three years will exceed by far the primary purchasing and planting costs.
Using past experience from countries with the same planning system is important. In the UK, the reuse of derelict buildings into sustainably projects is the key. Why not consider the same approach in Malta? Lateral thinking would thus become the solution, by solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious.
Another indirect and innovative way in maintaining sustainable development is through education. For example, The Cliffs Interpretation Centre aims to enhance the meaning of an Interpretation Centre; that of disseminating information through innovative means of communication. Its concepts are aligned to the principles of Education for Sustainable Development which “is a lifelong process spanning from early childhood to adulthood….a life-wide process” (1, pg 4). The Centre strives to ensure a continuation of education of the surrounding areas’ heritage, such as through several informative lectures and walks to school students in outings. On an informal education level, The Centre offers ecotourism packages. These packages are recreational and promote healthy living through walks, but they are also indirectly creating public awareness on the surrounding environment, archaeology, gastronomy and local produce.
Lateral thinkingcan be also employed in generating environmental awareness through thinking outside thebox. Moreover, lateral thinking can also generate efficient collaboration and diversificationbetween different entities, with the purpose of conserving the environment.
NSESD, 2016. Nurturing a Sustainable Society – A National Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development for Malta
 MEPA, 2015. Strategic Environmental Assessment, Environment Report, July 2015
 Royal Town Planning Institute, 2004 Education for Sustainable Development: A Manual for Schools
 TSO, 2010. Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment