Caravan owners and camper hobbyists in Mistra have complained about the lack of designated camping sites and argued that overdevelopment across the country has contributed to a lack of suitable open spaces.

They spoke to Times of Malta as a civil case filed by the owner of a restaurant in Mistra is set to have its first hearing next month.

The legal case against the authorities highlights their failure to regulate the illegal uptake of public space by caravans in the street leading to the bay, a practice which has disrupted his business over the years.

Claude Camilleri has been trying for a decade to highlight the problems caused by dozens of caravans at the bay.

The ombudsman’s office has put an investigation into his case on hold due to the pending legal proceedings which Camilleri has filed against the police commissioner, the Malta Tourism Authority, Transport Malta, the Lands Authority and the Mellieħa local council.

Camilleri has also been vocal about the noise and activity generated by families in the area, arguing that the lack of regulation and enforcement made the situation worse.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a group of caravan owners maintained that they “did their best not to bother anyone” by avoiding the main street, which has been the subject of Camilleri’s complaints over the years.

“If anything, we usually end up cleaning up after others as well as ourselves any time we actually show up at Mistra,” one of the caravan owners said.

“However, there are people setting up their caravans in the middle of the way and we don’t agree with doing that. To be fair, there aren’t many places to set up camps properly but that still doesn’t justify it,” he added.

Another man from the same group said that “the real problem is that we have nowhere else to go”.

“Beaches and other areas are packed. Where can you go to enjoy yourself nowadays,” he asked.

The group also referred to the government’s decision to concede the management of l-Aħrax and il-Miżieb to the hunting lobby FKNK.

“Personally, I don’t have an issue against hunting but now we can’t go to those areas during the hunting season either,” one other member of the group said.

“If it weren’t for Mistra and other spots that are still available, we don’t know how we would have got through COVID, especially because of the fact that, since people had nowhere to go, the outdoors became more crowded,” he added.

The caravan owner also argued that it was not fair for people to paint them in a bad light due to littering.

“It’s true that there are many who leave a mess behind wherever they go and that’s wrong. However, there is also a lack of garbage collection and dumping sites available, so that does not help,” he said.

When asked about the cause of the problems faced by sites like Mistra, another camper owner said they were due to the shrinking size of spaces for outdoor enthusiasts.

“There are too many building permits being approved,” he told Times of Malta.

“It’s happening everywhere... in every locality buildings keep going up. Anywhere you look you’ll see a tower crane.

“Many of us wouldn’t mind paying for permits in designated zones, so long as there are some basic services like drainage and plumbing.

“The camping sites that are available are being hogged by people who set themselves up there decades ago,” he added.

The group also expressed frustration at the difficulties faced with finding a place in camping zones.

“We have noticed that spaces are always taken because people just keep the same booking in the same spot every year,” one of the campers said.

“And if the government creates more camping sites, they need to be public because if they are privately run they would be too expensive.”

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