Update 6.11pm - MDA welcomes policy
A long-heralded policy on the use of public spaces as restaurant extensions was published today, with the government saying it would strike a balance between the needs of businesses and the use of pavements and squares.
The new policy offers a “one-stop-shop” solution at the Planning Authority with guidelines as to what is permissible.
Addressing a press conference, Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said the new policy offers clear parameters which will help remove bureaucracy for potential investors.
The Tourism Minister said he is not happy seeing public land being taken over for private use.
“There have to be limits to everything. The private sector must be allowed to operate while the public has the right to enjoy public land,” Dr Zammit Lewis said.
Planning Secretary Deborah Schembri said the government wants outdoor spaces to be used well.
“It is a very detailed policy with clear guidance as to what can and cannot be done. Previously you used to receive different opinions from difference people and departments,” Dr Schembri said.
She said a balance will be struck between those wishing to enjoy public spaces and those wishing to offer al-fresco dining services.
By way of example, Dr Schembri said that only a set percentage of a village square can be used for al-fresco dining, which will ensure that they do not end up “engulfed” by tables and chairs.
Completely closed structures that serve as an extension to a restaurant will not be permitted, she said.
Robert Vella from the Planning Authority said the main policy objectives were maintaining accessibility and providing comfort for bother diners and pedestrians.
He said the policy adopts a pro-business stance while protecting the rights of pedestrians to use public areas.
Quality standards such as the design of outdoor furniture, maintainenance conditions, the colour of materials used and any advertising will all be regulated.
Mr Vella said the dining areas will be clearly marked so as to make enforcement easier.
The policy limits the permitting and licensing of these outdoor catering areas to primary, secondary and tertiary town centres, entertainment priority areas, tourism zones, resort zones, commercial areas and industrial areas which are identified in the approved local plans.
Applications in residential areas “will not be favourable considered”, the policy document states.
'Policy was due an update' - MDA
The Malta Developers' Association welcomed the changes, saying the outdoor dining policy would make restaurant owners' lives much easier and lessen bureaucracy. New sanitary regulations were also a positive, given that old ones were over a century old.
"The two measures are not only pro business, but take into consideration the environment and at the same time protect citizens. These were enacted after wide consultation, including a vote of approval on the Policy on Outdoor Catering," the MDA said.
See the policy in full on pdf document below.
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