“Lack of control” on obstruction abuse from catering establishments
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Perit David Pace, the Commissioner for the Environment and Planning, has said in a statement that one of the first complaints dealt with on taking up office five years ago was about the inconveniences experienced by residents and pedestrians through the obstruction to public walkways by tables and chairs placed as extensions to catering establishments.
Referring to a report issued at the time, the Commissioner said it had found that, “while in principle outdoor extensions of catering establishments provided a welcome addition to local lifestyle, there was a lack of an effective and timely means of control of abuse. Various recommendations had been made to improve the situation.”
“Clearly there is need for a combined ‘task force’ to carry out the necessary inspections for reining in abusers, as happened in the case of beach furniture hirers,” the Commissioner said.
“Judging from the complaints still being received and regular press coverage, the situation remains very much the same, and given the large number of permits issued for such development it has clearly worsened,” the Commissioner added.
He pointed out that besides the obstruction problem however, there are other aspects which are causing concerns.
“The first is the widespread permitting of ‘build-outs,’ or extension of the pavement area onto the roadway to accommodate tables and chairs.
“The siting of some of them is nothing but an accident waiting to happen, since they lie on major thoroughfares where space for emergency manoeuvring for vehicles is practically non-existent,” said the Commissioner.
He questioned as to which of the permitting authorities is responsible for the health and safety aspect of such development? “Is it Transport Malta or the Malta Tourism Authority for issuing a ‘no objection’? Is it the Lands Authority for permitting the take-up of public land? Or is it the Planning Authority for issuing the final permit?”
The Commissioner also remarked that such extensions also result in the loss of kerbside parking spaces, and is becoming “a major headache to Local Councils.”
The second, the Commissioner said, is the health and hygiene aspect. “While strict regulations are enforced in relation to the storage, preparation, serving and consumption of food inside the establishment, there seems to be no control over the evident health risks of consuming food in an atmosphere thick with dust and exhaust fumes.”
“The scenario of diners ‘enjoying’ their meal while a few centimetres away a concrete mixer, caught up in a traffic jam, spews exhaust onto their ‘spaghetti vongole’ does not appear to concern health authorities,” the Commissioner stated.
He added that, an article in the Daily Mail reports that, according to the World Health Organisation, diesel engine exhaust fumes cause cancer and belong in the same potentially deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.
The Commissioner stated that he had sent various questions to the Environmental Health Directorate requesting information on what procedures are in place regarding food safety and whether the Directorate is given a consultee status in planning applications for such development. “Despite repeated reminders, no reply has been received to date.”
The Commissioner also remarked about the noise generated by this development. “Besides the noise generated by the patrons of these establishments, operators often apply for an additional permit to play music.”
He claimed that the unchecked abuse of loud music played well into the night and the resulting stress and inconvenience to the residents, is another major headache for Local Councils and the Police.
The Commissioner for the Environment and Planning, concluded by saying that “this particular issue however is just one part of the whole problem of a lack of effective noise control in Malta.”
Photograph by Alain Salvary