Workers tasked with building a controversial platform close to the seafront in St Julian’s were temporarily stalled on Monday, after angry residents blocked workers from erecting the structure.
The platform, which is intended for additional outside seating for Nola Cafe on Main Street in St Julian’s, overlooking Balluta Bay, was granted a permit on Friday by the Lands Authority on Friday, despite the Environment Ombudsman having said one month prior that it should be removed.
It will take up space that is currently occupied by five parking spaces, one of which is reserved for disabled people, and lie over two water culverts as well as a sewage manhole.
The permit was seemingly granted without the knowledge of the local council nor the residents directly affected by the loss of the space, who have objected to the structure vociferously.
Times of Malta observed contractors on Monday morning unable to load off the structure, as cars had been left parked in the spaces intended for the platform, despite ‘no parking’ signs put up by Transport Malta.
The stand-off lasted for about an hour, before owners of the vehicles were contacted by both the police and Transport Malta.
Residents were told that unless they removed their vehicles, they would be towed away, at which point they chose to remove their cars.
‘We have had enough’
In a statement, the St Julian's local council expressed its disappointment that permission for the platform had been granted.
"This concession is in a residential zone and one of the last few zones where attempts are being made to preserve the area from commercial development.
"With this decision authorities have opened a wide door for further commercial exploitation of the zone."
The council also argued that the platform would generate a traffic hazard due to the restriction of space in the already narrow road, and work to the cafe's detriment, as it eliminated parking spaces in an area where they are already limited.
“I know residents are fed up with the situation and feel absolutely unheard. I as mayor certainly never encouraged anyone to disobey the law, however I cannot condemn people who felt they had to take passive action in the face of injustice,” St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg said.
Residents who spoke to Times of Malta said the situation had become untenable with many elderly residents having to contend parking further and further away up the hill, or leave their vehicles in Ta' Giorni.
“This is in front of my house, which is very inconvenient, we cannot even bring a doctor to see us down here because it’s difficult to stop, our relatives cannot even come and visit us because there's never any parking. It's not acceptable,” said one resident, who preferred not to be named.
Louiselle, a long-time resident of the area, said authorities had run roughshod over the rights of citizens.
“This zone is inundated with commercial establishments, there is no respect for residents and citizens of the area. We have bars, we have applications for other types of establishments with no respect for citizens and residents rights,” she said.
“We have written to the Lands Authority about this platform, to no avail. We were informed by the ombudsman that this platform was not acceptable; they didn't even have the original land permit when they had already placed the platform a few months ago.”
“There is a certain sense of indifference to what is going on which is unacceptable and nobody seems to care.”
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