St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg is fuming after the Lands Authority issued a permit for a café to erect a platform on precious parking spaces just a month after the Environment Ombudsman had ordered it removed.

Buttigieg said the permit was issued behind the council’s back. He only found out by chance after residents pointed out that ‘no parking’ signs issued by Transport Malta were put up for the parking spaces to be kept free.

Works on the platform are expected to start on Monday. 

The angry mayor said the only way that residents could show their disdain at the decision is by using “passive resistance – boycotting”.

Several attempts to contact the café for a reaction were in vain on Friday.

“This is another example of how a government entity chooses to accommodate someone who is near to the party in government instead of safeguarding the common good and the interest of the residents. The power of the few!” the mayor charged.

“It is also ironic that this permit was handed out just one month after it was removed upon the instructions of the Ombudsman. It is an arrogant attitude that Lands issued the permit even though it was aware that the council and the councils’ association were against it.”

It is an arrogant attitude that Lands issued the permit

Buttigieg said it was also ironic that the council had waited for several months for the Lands Authority to approve its own requests but then issued such permits within a month.

“It goes to show how the local councils are being ignored by the government.”

The mayor said he had written to the authority and chief executive James Piscopo had confirmed the permit had been issued on April 20, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Buttigieg told Times of Malta he was demanding explanations from the authorities, including the Lands Authority and Transport Malta. He has also written to the Environment Ombudsman over the way the authority had interpreted his decision.

Nola Café in Main Street, operated by real estate firm Remax, had been ordered to remove the platform following the Ombudsman’s decision in March. The platform had remained in an unfinished state since December following complaints by the council and the authority, since it had not issued the permit.

Among other issues, the council complained about the loss of parking spaces, including those for the disabled, and the traffic chaos such facilities could create.

In August 2018, Lands had originally objected to the applicant’s application for a permit to take over the public land for his roadside platform but the Planning Authority was not aware of this objection when it issued a permit in 2019.

The objection only reached it in February.

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