Sliema mayor highlig more resources for en
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