Sliema business owners and residents have expressed outrage after a structure dubbed a “metal cage” was installed outside a new establishment on The Strand.

The structure, which appears to be an enclosure intended to contain an outdoor seating area, appeared on the pavement this week in front of a former jewellery shop being converted into a gelateria.

The structure has sparked a backlash among many who expressed frustration that such a development had been permitted.

Christine Pace, who owns a retail outlet directly adjacent to the gelateria, told Times of Malta that permitting the structure was “blatantly unfair”.

'Totally unacceptable, they have buried us'

“I don’t pay €500 a day in rent to have this thing obstruct half my storefront. The law is there for everyone, we’re not a jungle. It’s disgusting that the authorities have given away public land and allowed them to put this thing up,” she protested.

“It is totally unacceptable, they have buried us and it will impact our sales.”

Others took to Facebook to express their disappointment at the appearance of the structure, which will be part of the new Sunday in Scotland outlet.

I cannot imagine the poor person who has to push a wheelchair

“What’s the point of paying premium rent in Sliema to be closed off by a cage? This is completely below all standards,” one man said.

“At this rate, in a few months’ time they will be giving the pavement to somebody to build apartments,” another chipped in.

Others expressed concern that the structure would obstruct pedestrian use, particularly if they are mobility impaired or transporting young children.

Obstruction to pedestrian access

“I cannot imagine the poor person who has to push a wheelchair and wriggle their way around such a monstrosity,” another woman told Times of Malta.

In 2019, Sterling Jewellers, which previously occupied the premises, applied for a permit to turn the shop into a gelateria and install a retractable canopy as well as place tables and chairs outside the establishment, which was subsequently approved.

In its access audit report, the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability raised concerns that the way the development was proposed was not properly accessible for all. However, the Planning Authority’s case officer said the establishment was exempt from all access for all requirements as set out in MEPA circular 2/14.

The Sliema local council has objected to the application, citing obstruction to pedestrian access and noting that the proposed outdoor seating arrangement exceeded the allowable limit, which should be set at not more than half the width of the pavement.

MTA disagreed with closed structure

Additionally, in its submission, the Malta Tourism Authority said it disagreed with the erection of a closed structure.

“One should make sure that a considerate amount of space is left unencumbered to serve as a passageway for the general public,” the Malta Tourism Authority said.

Sterling Jewellers did not respond to a request for comment by the time of writing.

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