Sliema mayor high­lig more re­sources for en

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS - AN­THONY CHIRCOP

ula­tions Of­fice (BRO) and their in­spec­tors have to come to stop what­ever is caus­ing the trou­ble. There are other kinds of pol­lu­tion com­ing from traf­fic noise and en­ter­tain­ment that goes on – whether per­mit­ted or not – late into the night. There is con­struc­tion work that starts early in the morn­ing and car­ries on – with the con­trac­tor not al­ways hold­ing the right per­mit. All th­ese things to­gether cause a great deal of worry and in­con­ve­nience to res­i­dents.

Just imag­ine builders com­ing in next door, early in the morn­ing, stay­ing there all day us­ing heavy ma­chin­ery. They leave and then there is the loud mu­sic from the bars, and peo­ple go­ing out­side for a smoke and a chat, and this goes on into the early hours of the morn­ing. It’s ba­si­cally a noisy at­mos­phere all the time, un­less you live in a re­ally re­mote part of Sliema where you can get some peace and quiet, but ob­vi­ously you can’t be any­where cen­tral and be af­forded this pos­si­bil­ity.

When it comes to en­force­ment, you men­tioned hav­ing to con­tact the BRO and other en­force­ment agen­cies over con­struc­tion is­sues. How have you found their re­sponse time?

I’ll speak to the BRO man­age­ment and while they do try their best, and their in­spec­tors do visit, in my opin­ion their of­fice is not equipped well enough and they have a very small num­ber of in­spec­tors. I told them that their in­spec­tors would be needed to pa­trol Sliema alone all day, with­out hav­ing to cover all Malta and Gozo. I hope we can see some im­prove­ment in that area.

There was an idea of team­ing up with the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity so that they could pro­vide more hu­man re­sources, but that is only when it comes to con­struc­tion. Then you have noise is­sues that have to be reg­u­lated by the po­lice and, there again, they are short of man­power – or at least that is the im­pres­sion we have been given.

Peo­ple rightly con­tact their Coun­cil to com­plain, but we do not see ef­fec­tive en­force­ment hap­pen­ing or, if it does, it is in par­tic­u­lar in­stances and does not cover large ar­eas. This is when peo­ple be­come wor­ried and ag­grieved.

When it comes to high­rise con­struc­tion, there is al­ready a traf­fic prob­lem in Sliema. Are you con­cerned about the in­crease in traf­fic that such de­vel­op­ments may cre­ate, and do you fore­see a so­lu­tion?

Traf­fic is al­ways a prob­lem and it’s not only lim­ited to Sliema. This is a beau­ti­ful place and I’m proud to live here but it is also a ‘cross-over’ area; peo­ple drive through it, come here to work, come here for en­ter­tain­ment, to walk... so there is al­ways a fair amount of traf­fic. We tried to help by in­tro­duc­ing our ‘res­i­dents park­ing scheme’, or a time-re­stricted park­ing scheme, which was ap­proved way back but never put into ac­tion. We started putting this into op­er­a­tion but, un­for­tu­nately, we did not get co­op­er­a­tion from the au­thor­i­ties. In fact, on the con­trary, we were stopped. There was a Cab­i­net de­ci­sion – spe­cific to Sliema – to to­tally can­cel this al­ready ap­proved park­ing scheme.

We also want to con­struct – in what lit­tle un­oc­cu­pied space is left – an un­der­ground car park. We are mov­ing ahead with this but, ob­vi­ously, there is a spec­i­fied process to ob­serve and that process seems to be tak­ing longer than we had an­tic­i­pated.

When­ever there is a project in the pipeline, we in­sist – and it is the PA’s duty to en­sure – that the de­vel­oper pro­vides suf­fi­cient park­ing spa­ces. What nor­mally hap­pens, how­ever, in the even­tual lack of suf­fi­cient park­ing spa­ces, is that the de­vel­op­ers make a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion that goes into a fund op­er­ated by the PA that will ben­e­fit the area.

At the mo­ment, things are not be­ing co­or­di­nated and when ap­proval is given for large projects, I do not feel that there is suf­fi­cient dis­cus­sion, or suf­fi­cient con­sid­er­a­tion, re­gard­ing the move­ment of traf­fic that such a de­vel­op­ment will cause. We are not against de­vel­op­ment, but we feel that the stud­ies – par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ad­dress­ing park­ing and car move­ments – need to be taken more se­ri­ously. A big project might tick all the nec­es­sary boxes but one needs to be re­al­is­tic and see that the pres­sures al­ready af­fect­ing Sliema will be in­creased to the point where it will be im­pos­si­ble to move. And by this I don’t mean just by car, but also in terms of af­fect­ing the move­ment of peo­ple. Cars oc­cupy so much space that it will make it dif­fi­cult for any other sort of trans­port to move around.

What about the is­sue of tables and chairs block­ing pave­ments and pas­sages through them around Sliema? Are you con­cerned and, if so, what can the Coun­cil do?

We al­ways keep track of the ap­pli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted for th­ese tables and chairs. In most cases we reg­is­ter our ob­jec­tions with the PA on time and give our rea­sons for them. Our main con­cern is that the pave­ments are to­tally taken over. If you al­low an es­tab­lish­ment the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing tables and chairs on the pave­ment, then the ones nearby will also ap­ply, so you have to take a more holis­tic ap­proach.

What hap­pens is that the ac­tual pave­ment will be made al­most com­pletely in­ac­ces­si­ble, and there will be a spill over of peo­ple us­ing th­ese fa­cil­i­ties, es­pe­cially when the busi­ness is not just a cof­fee shop or a restau­rant but a bar, with peo­ple mov­ing around.

I per­son­ally have to strug­gle to get through, so I can just imag­ine some­one with mo­bil­ity is­sues, some­one with a pushchair or in a wheel­chair. They will cer­tainly not be able to pass through the pas­sage. And when

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