Paceville Entrepreneurs worried as 30 businesses could be expropriated - GRTU
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.