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Fight against relocation of monti goes on, say shop owners

Merchants Street shop owners oppose the market’s move. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Merchants Street shop owners oppose the market’s move. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Merchants' Street business community in Valletta has pledged to continue its fight to stop the relocation of the monti to the upper part of the street.

The association’s president, Anthony Camilleri, told Times of Malta yesterday that although the court had turned down its request for an injunction, shop owners will carry on with their battle to have the hawkers stay put.

“We do not feel in any way defeated by the decision turning down our request for an injunction because it was based on a technicality that the decision to relocate had not been taken yet. We will continue our fight and are ready to use all the legal instruments at our disposal to stop the relocation if and when the decision is taken,” Mr Camilleri said.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon turned down an application filed by the businesses asking the court to prevent the relocation of the flea market to the area between Melita Street and Old Theatre Street.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Zammit McKeon noted that ministry consultant Alexander Farrugia had confirmed under oath that no decision had been taken on the relocation plan for the monti to Merchants Street and that negotiations between all interested parties were still under way.

He said that for an injunction to be issued certain legal requirements had to be fulfilled. But Mr Camilleri said the decision did not dishearten any of the 72 shop owners who are resisting any move.

“We are in the process of requesting a meeting with Economy Minister Chris Cardona to discuss the matter. If there is a plan to relocate, then we will simply go back to court. We do not intend letting it happen and we will do whatever it takes to stop it.

The association, which has the backing of 72 businesses, will take it all the way,” he said.

Mr Camilleri said he personally met Prime Minister Joseph Muscat before the election and been given assurances that any plans to move the monti had been scrapped.

He said the Prime Minister had reiterated the promise in a meeting the Labour Party organised for Valletta businesses at the General Workers’ Union theatre.

But before the last general election, Labour committed itself to relocating the Valletta open market to Ordnance Street, which would have included the area between the new Parliament and the Royal Opera House ruins.

The move was due to go ahead and metal markings were placed on the paving defining the space allotted to each of the 74 licensed hawkers. However, it was halted following a public outcry that the monti would mar the area around the Parliament building designed by architect Renzo Piano.

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