Sliema’s perennial parking problem will be the main topic up for discussion in an upcoming meeting between the local council and the transport minister, with residents’ parking on the agenda.
Mayor Graziella Attard Previ said the council is proposing a six-month pilot project to closely monitor the pros and cons of residential parking, analysing whether it is sustainable or if it works specifically in certain zones.
“The parking issue is always top of the agenda in every residents’ meeting we have. It is a very big issue,” the mayor told Times of Malta.
The council will be meeting with Transport Minister Ian Borg on February 15, just weeks after the inauguration of Sliema’s Annunciation Square reopened the debate over open spaces versus parking in the busy town.
A history of failed attempts
Back in 2012, the Sliema council had received the green light to introduce a residents’ parking scheme, similar to localities like Valletta, Floriana and even parts of Lija.
The scheme would have allocated half of Sliema’s parking slots for residents during specific times of the day. Parking in reserved areas was only allowed for up to two hours and any breach of the regulations would result in a €23 fine.
But the plan was short-lived, following an outcry of complaints and an hour-long strike by teachers in five Sliema schools. The government went on to intervene in June 2013 and removed the scheme altogether through a legal notice.
Nine years later, the parking problem in Sliema is far worse, as huge developments saw townhouses being demolished to make way for hundreds of new apartments or hotels.
“Unfortunately, some of these new developments come with no sufficient car spaces or garages,” Attard Previ said.
“Along with the increase in population, the request for more parking spaces in the locality has only increased.
“We wish to introduce residential parking across Sliema but we understand not all areas here are the same.
“There are commercial zones, schools and residential areas, which all need to be studied and identified before we introduce any scheme.”
Residents have also started a petition calling for priority parking.
How will the pilot scheme work?
Attard Previ said discussions are being held with the hope of applying residential parking in all the roads of the locality.
She explained that the scheme will include a ‘three-colour system’, with three different kinds of parking bays – green, white and blue.
Green parking spaces will be allocated for residents only, white parking spaces for everyone and blue spaces will be a mixture of timed parking for both residents and visitors.
“Of course, through the pilot project we can study how these colour codes work in different zones, see if we would need to increase or decrease certain time slots or change certain parking bays,” she said.
A sensitive topic
Parking is a sensitive topic for Sliema residents, to the extent that the council received complaints when the locality was identified as one of the three towns to benefit from funding to create open green spaces.
“When it was announced that Howard Street will be pedestrianised, we were flooded with comments of residents concerned that we were taking away parking spaces,” the mayor said.
The embellishment of Annunciation Square also created a divide between Sliema residents, who did not want to lose the precious parking spots, and those who wanted to keep the locality’s only actual square free of cars.
During a 2016 survey, almost three-quarters of 300 Sliema residents interviewed said they were in favour of a residential parking scheme.
The mayor is hopeful the discussions will be fruitful.
“Valletta is a very commercial area. It has bars, restaurants and hotels too, just like Sliema, and, so far, it has not removed its residential parking scheme,” Attard Previ noted.