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Interview with the Mayor of Santa Venera, Malta
A conversation with Stephen Sultana, Mayor of the Maltese locality of Santa Venera since 2013.
Mr Sultana, how would you describe the town of Santa Venera briefly?
St. Venera is located in the central region of Malta, a few kilometres away from the harbour and from the capital city of Valletta. It has a population of around 7,600 inhabitants.
St. Venera is named after the patron saint St. Venera and its feast is celebrated every year on the last Sunday of July. St. Venera emerged from the adjacent sister village B’Kara and is bordered also by Hamrun, Qormi and Msida.
Our town is rich in history, and one of the most popular attractions is the Aqueduct which was financed by the Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt in 1615. Water has been transported from Rabat, through these aqueducts and made its way to Valletta.
One can also find Casa Leone, Vincenzo Bugeja Institute, St. Joseph Home and the Old church.
Apart from being a mayor, you have worked for the municipality as a councillor for many years. How did the town change over this period? Which are the successful projects or developments where your contribution can be seen the most?
I have been serving in the Local Council since 1999 and I have served as Mayor between 2005-2008 and 2013-2019. The town changed drastically and by now, it is highly densely populated.
The successful projects which have left my mark till now are the pavement works that took place in Misrah Santa Venera way back in 2013/2014 which transformed the area into a picturesque square. Pjazza Guze Flores project which was re-built in less than 6 months during 2008.
Also, the Centenary monument commemorating 100 years since the arrival of the St. Venera statue and 100 years of the Parish church. Other interesting projects are in the pipeline and which hopefully will be inaugurated during this legislature.
Please tell us more about the Slow Streets initiative, by the Local Councils Association and how you expect it to affect your locality. You have already shared concerns that the extensive pedestrianisation will lead to an even greater shortage of parking spaces. Has a solution been negotiated?
Yes, as already highlighted, concerns remain regarding the loss of the parking spaces. We cannot afford to lose parking spaces to the detriment of our residents who are deprived of such necessity. On the other hand, we still believe that this study will come up with a balanced solution that might suits all.
Your town boasts a great cultural heritage, exemplified by, among others, the Old Church. How do you maintain it, and do you get external support?
The Old church is one of our gems. It used to be our parish church but when the population was growing, another bigger church was built. We have applied for certain funds but unfortunately, till now we weren’t successful. We are working also to make this church as a scheduled building.
Do you have any concrete data on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the local economy and employment?
We don’t possess such data; however, the whole island is feeling the effect of this pandemic but I am more than sure that we will get over it in a few months.
Were you able to implement any local initiatives to help the population get through the difficult health situation easier?
Yes, we have offered various services and we took various initiatives. Amongst which, we have offered delivery of groceries to the vulnerable commuters, we have sanitised bus stop and other frequented areas, we have covered all the benches with plastic so as to maintain the social distancing, we had to close the public convenience and playgrounds, we have given free cotton masks and in the coming days we will also distribute for free COVID packs to the local voluntary organisations. Above everything, we have continued to give comfort to our residents and service them with a smile.
What are the main projects lying ahead and how did Covid-19 change your plans?
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to postpone various cultural events and calendar activities. However, we had plenty of time to think ahead and interesting projects are lining up.
Amongst them, an open gym and a recreational and playground at the Palazz l-Ahmar zone, a project estimated to cost 310,000 euros is set to be inaugurated early next year. New public conveniences at the Romeo Romano Gardens. Another rehab project at the same garden transforming two rooms into educational activities – we have been awarded 85,000 euros for this by the EU.
Pjazza Franka project is yet another ambitious project whereas the area will be transformed into an innovative and vertical garden, being estimated at 520,000 euros. Another environmental project of lampposts equipped with irrigation and solar engineering, in which the Local Council will also benefit from a 30,000 euros government scheme.
What advice would you give to the other mayors in the European Union?
Every Mayor and Councillor strives his best to make his town look better and thus am more than the same goes for European mayors. Having said that, however, we must make sure to leave our town/city to our children in a much better shape than we have found it and thus every effort counts.