28 AUGUST 2002
Tourism Minister Michael Refalo and George Pullicino, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry for Home Affairs and the Environment, on Monday spoke about MEPAs change of policy which favours a more liberal official attitude to the placing of tables and chairs on public land abutting catering establishments and bars. The new policy does not apply to fixed and mobile kiosks.
After explaining the main lines of MEPAs policy, Mr Pullicino announced that to reduce the level of bureaucracy to the barest minimum, the Authority had agreed to streamline the application process by directly involving the two other main agencies, namely the Malta Tourism Authority and the Lands Department, respectively responsible for the issue of operating licences and drafting the relative encroachment agreements.
Agreement was reached following last weeks meeting at the Tourism Ministry.
Mr Pullicino said that MEPA and the MTA already work closely in the assessment of tourism projects and that MEPA only considers projects once applicants produce the MTAs Compliance Certificate. The same system will apply in this case.
Applications will initially be subject to MTA clearance before submission to MEPA. Once the relative development permission is granted applicants will enter into an agreement with Lands Department.
Mr Pullicino said that the Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA) has decided to relax its policy on the placing of tables and chairs outside bars and restaurants in a bid to breathe new life into Malta's urban centres.
Until now, development permission for the placing of tables and chairs outside catering establishments was given on condition that on-site parking was provided, or alternatively, a contribution was made to the Commuted Payment Parking Scheme.
Funds collected through this scheme go towards improving parking and traffic provisions in the locality.
However a legal notice published last year allowed the placing of tables and chairs outside catering establishments in most cases without the need to apply for a development permission. According to this legal notice (Development Notification Order 2001) the developer is to notify MEPA of his intention to place tables and chairs outside his establishment and ensure that he meets certain requirements regarding pedestrian passage ways and traffic obstruction, among other conditions.
MEPA has now decided to change current Structure Plan policy (TRA4) which regulates such development by removing the requirement for on-site parking or CPPS contribution on all applications for the placing of tables and chairs outside catering establishments in urban centres.
It is being proposed that the policy would be retroactive to when the CPPS was introduced and that the Lm30,400 collected so far are refunded to the developers without interest, so long as they meet the requirements of the legal notice.
Mr Pullicino added that "MTA, MEPA and the Lands Department are streamlining the relevant application forms to synergise submission requirements and keep as close as possible to the one stop shop concept."
Minister Refalo said that the new MTA MEPA Lands agreement and procedures will be favourably received by tourism operators. "It will eliminate complaints about one hand not knowing what the other one is doing and the sometimes justified frustration among applicants and operators which led many to illegally utilise public land rather than follow the former lengthy and complicated procedures."
The Minister said that he had no doubt that a number of operators of catering establishments and bars placed tables and chairs on public land without any title to do so. Now that Government will be applying a more liberal policy which enhances and brightens up city centres and tourist zones, the need was felt to better monitor, regularize and enforce a situation which for years had got out of hand.