A new policy aimed at “facilitating” the placement of tables and chairs in open public spaces was today launched for public consultation.

The revised policy was drawn up by an inter-ministerial committee to enable the private sector to exploit outdoor dining – one of the selling points the country wants to promote, according to Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis.

“We want more people to use outdoor places. Outdoor catering is a selling point for the country that we need to promote. This is not a policy to muzzle the private sector but one designed to enable a level playing field through consistency and clarity of regulations,” Dr Zammit Lewis said.

The planning authority will act as a “one-stop shop” for the issuing of permits.

Planning parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon said it was innovative that the private sector was involved in the drawing up of the revised policy. The private entity involved is the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association – the stakeholder with an interest in the facilitation of procedures.

Asked whether the revision of the policy also addressed the need to stem abuse in popular areas such as Sliema and St Paul’s Bay, Dr Falzon said the standardisation of rules would in itself facilitate enforcement.

Yet while the issuing of permits will be made easier, the responsibility for enforcement will remain in the hands of the different entities previously involved. These include Mepa, the police, Transport Malta and Land Department. The policy itself does not go into enforcement issues.

Mepa CEO Johann Buttigieg said the planning authority would be responsible for drawing the attention of authorities to breaches.

The vast amount of tables and chairs in public spaces has generated a significant amount of complaints over the years because of abuse that resulted in a lack of public access. Pavements are often blocked, leading also to difficulties for persons with disability.

The new rules establish a minimum standard of 1.5 metres of access to the public in all areas around the island.  The new rules will apply to all, including those with permits already issued.

The deadline for public consultation is October 23. The policy can be accessed on the Mepa web site here.


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