Paceville En­trepreneurs wor­ried as 30 busi­nesses could be ex­pro­pri­ated - GRTU

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Ac­cord­ing to cal­cu­la­tions, around 30 busi­nesses in Paceville could end up be­ing ex­pro­pri­ated through the Paceville Mas­ter Plan for in­fra­struc­ture projects and em­bel­lish­ment, GRTU Head of the Tourism, Hos­pi­tal­ity and Leisure unit Philip Fenech told The Malta In­de­pen­dent.

Mr Fenech said that the GRTU is pleased with the idea of the area be­ing man­aged, rather than ev­ery­thing be­ing done in a piece­meal fashion as it is to­day. He ex­pressed con­cern, how­ever, when it came to the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of busi­nesses.

Last Thurs­day, the GRTU or­gan­ised a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing for en­trepreneurs in the Paceville area, held at the Vi­valdi ho­tel. Di­rec­tor of Plan­ning at the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity Christo­pher Borg, Plan­ning Au­thor­ity Unit Man­ager Joseph Gauci, and Malta Tourism Au­thor­ity CEO Paul Bugeja were in­vited to ad­dress the meet­ing. The room was full with more than 100 in at­ten­dance.

While the meet­ing was held be­hind closed doors, sources present said that en­trepreneurs left the meet­ing with mixed feel­ings af­ter an ex­ten­sive pre­sen­ta­tion of the plan. Some felt that they would be dwarfed by the size of such big struc­ture, oth­ers felt ir­ri­tated at the pos­si­ble un­bal­ance, with some pock­ets pos­si­bly be­ing ex­pro­pri­ated thus put­ting them out of busi­ness and crip­pling oth­ers. Oth­ers, how­ever, were ex­cited about the project, be­liev­ing it would cre­ate a stronger syn­ergy and that their es­tab­lish­ment could ben­e­fit from the plan as it is cur­rently pro­posed.

Busi­ness per­sons were also pleased with the pro­posed em­bel­lish­ment of the area.

This news­room is in­formed that among the wor­ries and con­cerns ex­pressed dur­ing the meet­ing were the method­ol­ogy used. Some ques­tioned, from both an eco­nomic and an en­vi­ron­men­tal point of view, why some busi­nesses would have to close down in or­der for roads to be widened and open spa­ces to be cre­ated while oth­ers would not. They also ques­tioned whether this was done to ac­com­mo­date cer­tain high rises and whether this project will ruin Malta’s Mediter­ranean feel turn­ing the is­land into some form of Dubai

Some ex­pressed con­cerns about the im­ple­men­ta­tion of such a project. “Will this part of Malta be closed for tourism dur­ing con­struc­tion? Will our busi­nesses die while con­struc­tion is on­go­ing?” Sources also men­tioned that de­liv­ery queries were raised, such as with re­gard to those who re­quire gas cylin­ders, given that some ar­eas could be pedes­tri­anised.

An­other cause for con­cern was that some busi­nesses might have had plans, or bought prop­erty in the area for fu­ture plans prior to the an­nounce­ment of the mas­ter plan, yet things through the new pro­posed plan would change ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions. Other wor­ries in­clude the very fact that the mas­ter plan has been pub­li­cised so much in the me­dia that cer­tain busi­ness de­ci­sions taken be­fore hand could be stalled, given the un­cer­tainty of the fu­ture of the area. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Fenech, who chaired the meet­ing and was con­tacted by this news­room fol­low­ing the event, the PA rep­re­sen­ta­tives said that noth­ing is cast in stone.

He also said that there were busi­ness peo­ple in the area who did not want to ex­press their con­cerns in front of such a large crowd, and the PA was ready to meet these in­di­vid­u­als pri­vately. “A num­ber of the big­ger busi­nesses who will be af­fected al­ready took up their of­fer to meet in pri­vate.”

Re­fer­ring to busi­nesses in the area, Mr Fenech ex­plained: “I saw them strug­gle and build on each other’s suc­cess. Ev­ery­one recog­nises that the area needs man­age­ment and re­gen­er­a­tion, but where we dis­agree is on the ex­pro­pri­a­tion. Let’s build on our strengths and suc­cess get­ting rid of in­ef­fi­cien­cies and weak­nesses, but not dis­tort the whole eco­nomic equi­lib­rium in so do­ing.”

“At the end of the day, the way it is planned, there will be no less than three Pacevilles due to en­ter­tain­ment pock­ets,” he said.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Mr Fenech said his phone was in­un­dated with mes­sages from en­trepreneurs who were present. “They asked me whether this plan was made for cer­tain peo­ple to elim­i­nate them from busi­ness and try and take their slice of the pie in the fu­ture.”

“Can’t they re­gen­er­ate the area with­out break­ing us?” some asked.

Mr Fenech said that it is not just those busi­nesses that would be ex­pro­pri­ated that will be in trou­ble. “If you have a bus stop in front of a café, they would pay a high rent as it is a catch­ment area. But if the bus stop is moved else­where, then that prop­erty would not be worth the same rent fees. It is the same thing when it comes to busi­nesses. When you re­move a num­ber of busi­nesses, the other es­tab­lish­ments close by would also suf­fer. For ex­am­ple, if you re­move a bar from one side of the road, the pas­tizze­ria on the other side which makes a profit on cus­tomers com­ing out at mid­night or later to grab a bite to eat would also suf­fer.”

“A hub is built on the suc­cess of oth­ers and their col­lec­tive needs. The other busi­nesses could suf­fer col­lat­eral dam­age even though they would not be ex­pro­pri­ated.”

Mr Fenech thanked the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity for ex­tend­ing the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion dead­line, but in­di­cated that there are those who still be­lieve more time would be needed.

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