The government has refused to say which eateries have encroachment rights on public land, claiming that it is "not authorised" to do so.   

Nationalist Party MP Albert Buttigieg asked Lands Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi for a list of all encroachments along the Gżira and Sliema seafront during Monday's parliamentary sitting.  

He also asked for the plans for each encroachment so "that the people can know what is public land and what is encroached".  

Zrinzo Azzopardi, however, did not provide any information.  

"I am informed that the Lands Authority is not authorised to publish the details of private operators," came the minister's terse reply to the parliamentary question.   

Contacted for comment Buttigieg said residents are becoming increasingly frustrated.   

"People will end up throwing tables and chairs into the sea because they have had enough".  

"I'm not encouraging this by any means, but I am afraid the situation will lead to this - as it sadly happened with e-scooters," he said.

Zrinzo Azzopardi's reply effectively means there is no way for citizens to know what establishments are taking up public land with no authorisation, Buttigieg continued. 

"The minister's answer is unacceptable; the public has a right to know which land is public," Buttigieg said. 

Buttigieg said he has filed a Freedom of Information Request to get the information following the parliamentary question's lack of response.  

The MP who runs on the district that includes Sliema and Gżira pointed out a recent  report by the ombudsman over tables and chairs.  

That report slammed delays by the authorities to resolve "critical enforcement issues" in Valletta, where tables and chairs have disrupted religious ceremonies. 

Last year, the ombudsman singled out the Lands Authority following an investigation into how establishments constantly encroach on public roads and pavements without any form of permanent markings to ensure they remain within pre-set boundaries.   

"The lack of cooperation, particularly from the Lands Authority, has made it difficult to find a way to enhance its administrative role, particularly on sensitive issues where commercial interests are prevalent," the Ombudsman said. 

Tables and chairs encroachment concessions have become a hot topic recently. 

On Thursday, activists occupied tables and chairs outside a restaurant in a central Mellieħa Square, protesting what they call an "illegal landgrab" by db Group's catering establishments. 

A Planning Authority decision on sanctioning the encroachment for the Mellieħa eatery is set for the first week of May after it was deferred.   

Earlier this month protestors also gathered in Valletta over the issue.   

Valletta mayor Alfred Zammit has also spoken up about the issue, saying restaurants that were allowed to put tables and chairs outdoors due to health measures during the pandemic now expect to be able to keep the concession.

On Tuesday, Buttigieg made similar claims.   

"The temporary relaxation of rules has become permanent," he said.  

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