Shop owners along a stretch of a busy Valletta street were stunned on Sunday morning to discover a massive crane on their doorsteps, blocking access to their stores during one of the year’s busiest shopping days.

“As can be seen in the photos, clients cannot go through [to shops],” fumed one of the affected business owners.

Anastasi Panini owner Dominic Anastasi said the crane was, ironically, there to dismantle a tower crane on the corner of Merchants Street and St John Street.

We were told they arrived at 5am to set up and the police informed us they have permits to be here till 5pm

“We were given no advance warning,” he told the Times of Malta. “We were told they arrived at 5am to set up, and the police informed us they have permits to be here till 5pm.” Police officers were present on site as the works were carried out. The Valletta local council could not be reached for comment.

The Times of Malta reported earlier this month that the streets of the capital were to be rid of all heavy machinery by December 15 as the city geared up to assume the role of European Capital of Culture in January. This would include the removal of all tower cranes on construction sites, including those at the MCP car park in Floriana.

According to a spokeswoman for the Valletta 2018 Foundation, developers were aware that all equipment had to be removed by mid-December.

“All heavy machinery and tower cranes obstructing main streets or side streets need to be removed by December 15,” the spokeswoman told this paper.

The Capital of Culture opening ceremony will take place on January 20, with international performances and street entertainment planned for the day and throughout the rest of the year.

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