Plans to use the University of Malta sports ground as a car park have sparked a backlash, but the student council has insisted the temporary measure was necessary to stave off a crisis.

The University Students’ Council (KSU) announced earlier this week that the sports ground would be used to compensate for the permanent closing of part of the largest car park on the Tal-Qroqq campus, which will be taken up by a new student living complex.

The measure, which was decided by the University administration, will only remain in place until the start of works on a new sports complex in October.

“Although our long-term aim remains that of diverting the mentality from one of private-car use to the use of alternative modes of transport, such a situation is a particular one where the change has taken place drastically,” KSU said.

However, in a flurry of responses to the council’s announcement, students and others who used the track complained about the take-up of one of the only available sports facilities in the area, and what some said was an unwelcome message in favour of continued private car use.

“The hundreds of people who come here weekly in search for a less polluted and unbroken circuit to improve their health and wellbeing cannot and should not be expected to have their efforts blocked by vehicles every few seconds,” one athlete said.

This car park is in no way a solution

Responding to the criticism, KSU president Carla Galea told The Sunday Times of Malta the council had spent years trying to promote alternative transport, but that the sudden loss of a large number of parking spaces made the temporary solution a necessary evil.

“We have never campaigned to increase parking because we have been focused on reducing car use, and take-up has been much lower than we would have hoped,” she said.

“With such a drastic change overnight, without even having enough time to inform students, we could hardly expect them to pick up alternatives in a matter of days.”

Ms Galea added that as the new car park would only be used for a few months there was now an urgent need for all stakeholders to redouble their efforts to promote alternative transport.

“We now all have a deadline,” she said. “Everyone needs to work together and market the alternatives for students to get to University with peace of mind, or the chaos will be worse come October. This car park is in no way a solution, but it will give us time to come up with a solution.”

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