The encroachment of tables and chairs onto public spaces was somewhat of a welcome respite when it was encouraged as part of the strategy to cope with COVID. Fresh air was rightly prized, especially in the first wave of the pandemic.
What started as a respite, however, has fast become a permanent plague in and of itself. The encroachment of restaurants onto pavements and, sometimes, even on streets, with or without permission, continues to be a major problem. The practice has been infamous for many years, particularly notorious on the Sliema-Gżira promenade. However, as summer approaches, many outlets have started to blast loud music well into the night or up until early morning, too.
This is happening across many localities with scant respect for the neighbours. The regulations meant to limit noise levels are flouted with impunity. In the harbour areas, loud music from boat parties travel across to the surrounding localities, including the Three Cities.
One must also keep in mind that those localities that used to be considered ‘tal-villeġġjatura’ – summer residences – are now home to people who live there all year. People living in Marsascala or St Paul’s Bay are predominantly permanent residents who need a good night’s sleep in order to get up for work the following day.
This brings to mind the yearly directive which calls for demolition and excavation works to cease during the summer months in these so-called touristic areas. Why must the residents of these areas only be entitled to peace and quiet on a seasonal basis?
Not to mention the wider problem of unceasing, noisy works and excavations and endless blocks of ugly cubes not fit for pigeons, left empty and creating an overall shabby look to discourage tourists from returning.
One recalls a joke whereby it was said that Malta will be beautiful once all the construction works are finally finished. However, one cannot help but think to one prominent developer’s boast that Malta needs another century of development. By then, the island will surely be so unattractive that residents and tourists alike will have moved on to greener pastures.
Even the few beaches that we have are continuously threatened by encroachments that mar the scenery with every sort of pollution, including light and noise. We also need to desperately address the problems related to overflowing bins and trash all over the place, particularly in summer.
When will we see the introduction of barbecue areas in key locations to protect the rest of the beach from such activities? The failure to provide adequate facilities for campers also means that caravans are plonked wherever they see fit.
A few years back, a consultant in tourism had stated that Malta had reached the point of no return as regards being able to aspire to quality tourism. One gets the feeling that the authorities, who continue to preach sustainable tourism, are doing everything in their power to prove such statements correct.
However, this certainly does not need to be the case, given the vast wealth of heritage our country still enjoys and its beautiful Mediterranean landscape, especially in winter. Opportunities such as the €700 million earmarked for green new spaces need to be used wisely.
There are opportunities to enrich localities by, for example, opening the Villa Gollcher gardens in Mosta to the public or doing the same with Villa Bonnici in Sliema to create green lungs.
We should not be contradicting such policies by encroaching onto every pavement or building in every garden.
I still believe in Malta.
ADPD Media Officer
Published in The Times of Malta – Saturday 11 June 2022