Planning Authority approves more tables outside Suq tal-Belt

‘The result was welcomed by an ‘oh fuck’ by one elderly resident’

The Planning Authority has approved a permit for tables and chairs and an enclosed area to be placed in front of the Suq tal-Belt in Valletta
The Planning Authority has approved a permit for tables and chairs and an enclosed area to be placed in front of the Suq tal-Belt in Valletta

The Planning Authority has approved a permit for tables and chairs on a large podium area, as well as an enclosed space in the middle of Merchant Street in front of the Suq tal-Belt in Valletta.

A condition was added to ensure that one cultural event is organized every month in the Suq tal-Belt’s first floor.

In the last meeting the board had indicated its intention to refuse the application and no changes were made to the application since.

Developers insisted that the development was in line with existing policy and was one that represented an improvement over the state of the area before the Suq tal-Belt was redeveloped. 

The developers’ architect admitted that the outside table and chairs area was already being used despite the absence of a permit. They cited a previous DNO permitting structures before January. 

The Valletta local council objected to the proposal for creating a privatized space in a public square.  

All board members voted in favour of the permit, including Government representative Clayton Bartolo and Opposition representative Marthese Portelli.

The result was welcomed by an, ‘oh fuck’ by one elderly resident present at the sitting.

James Vella Clark a Valletta resident warned against past mistakes which have seen public squares being fenced by restaurant owners.

“This is sheer greed...they aren’t satisfied with whatever the additions they’ve already made to the building,” he said.  “Now they have turned to public spaces.”

Portelli insisted that access to the Suq tal-Belt should not be limited to patrons of restaurants and all tables and chairs should be removed at night after closure. The developers assured the board that this would be the case and tables and chairs would be removed at night.

But residents rebutted saying the area will inevitably still be fenced.

Bartolo on his part insisted that the area should remain public after closure at night.

However Vella Clark accused politicians of deviating from the main argument as people were normally asleep when the restaurants closed.

Another resident expressed her anger that the Suq Tal-Belt was no longer a market but a glorified restaurant and supermarket. This was dismissed as ‘romanticism’ by one of the group’s representatives.

Marika Micallef replied that the area was part of the concession given by government and that the owners were therefore not taking anything from public.

Victor Axiak contested the idea that a concession gave the developers ownership rights and pointed out that area will be enclosed.

At the beginning PA CEO Johann Buttigieg declared holding a meeting with developers after the last board meeting in which he asked them to present their vision for the area to the board. The aim of thisn he said, was to ensure that the board took its decision fully knowing what owners had in mind. 

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