Railings permit to inject new life to Merchants Street
Shoppers in Valletta may soon be able to sip a coffee or have lunch on Merchants’ Street after the planning authority approved an application to install railings that will fence off street furniture.
Tables and chairs will be closed off by the railings that will be located in the centre of the street so shoppers can pass through passageways on either side.
Malta Environment and Planning Authority board members on Thursday approved the installation of the railings, to be distributed into six sections, or modules, along the stretch of road between the junction with Melita and Theatre streets.
The colour of the railings, that cannot display adverts, will blend in with the road. The railings will remain but can be removed if necessary.
The permit does not give the automatic go-ahead for laying down street furniture such as tables, chairs and umbrellas. These were listed as reserved matters and will be subject a separate board approval.
The uncertainty of what the final product would look like led five Mepa board members to vote against the railings and eight voted in favour.
The permit was granted following an application by the government through the Rehabilitation Project Office. The Land Department will now issue a call for tenders for the operation of the six modules. St John’s Cathedral initially objected to the project out of concern that the railed-off areas would block the entrance to its museum. However, the case officer said in his report this would not be the case. He also pointed out the Civil Protection Department carried out tests and established that the railed areas would not block off any emergency vehicles that might have to rush through the road.
Meanwhile, the Malta Hotel and Restaurants Association said on Wednesday it was working to ensure no bank guarantees would be required in the case of those who wanted to install outdoor furniture and had a clean track record.
The Malta Tourism Authority last week agreed to cut the bank guarantee from €250 to €50 per square metre. This followed negotiations between the MHRA, the Malta Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprise – GRTU and the MTA after it was felt the rates were too high.
The MHRA restaurants’ committee welcomed the reduction but insisted it would work to ensure the issue of pavement and road encroachment be tackled consistently for the benefit of all stakeholders.
It had talks with the government about guidelines on pavement and beach encroachments so that operators will have a clear set of rules, ensuring the safety of patrons while allowing adequate passageway for pedestrians.