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Summertime inconvenience

Malta is so tiny that any illegal, or even unnecessary, occupation of public spaces ought to be clamped down immediately without reservation. Yet, despite greater national awareness of this and the frequent protests over illegal land grab for private or commercial purposes, the onslaught on open spaces is relentless. Added to this are the growing concerns over new building in outside development zones.

A festering sore in summer is the parking of caravans, trailers or other forms of mobile homes at popular beaches or shoreline, taking up the little precious space available to both locals and tourists.

The story repeats itself year after year, with the authorities looking on seemingly disinterested. If, and when, some sort of action is taken over a particular abuse, it is usually only of a temporary nature.

The end result is a free-for-all, an endemic trait that is getting a greater hold on an ever-increasing number of people. Whether it is on the road, in the countryside in winter or at the seaside, there are always some inconsiderate people who would selfishly want to hog space for them and they usually do it with impunity.

A visit to some beaches by this newspaper only a few days ago found that some places are virtually inaccessible because caravan owners have had the cheek to practically take possession of the land surrounding their vehicles too so that, to add insult to injury, they can put up tables and chairs, umbrellas and deckchairs.

Judging by what the police told this newspaper last year about caravans parked along the Mistra shoreline, such practice is not considered illegal provided the ‘campers’ have a road licence and insurance cover and ‘camping’ is not banned in the area.

If motorised caravan owners are not breaking the law, there still ought to be regulations in place that stop them from robbing other people of the enjoyment of staying on the beach. More importantly, such rules must be enforced.

The mayor of Mellieħa argued that, although campers were allowed to park in some areas, their owners could not put up tables, chairs and other structures around them. Yet, this is exactly what camper owners are doing and the police, or whoever has the duty to ensure the law is observed, are not seen to be doing anything to check the abuse.

The mayor does not seem to have much hope that the situation will be brought under control any time soon as the issue keeps cropping up every summer without the authorities ever taking a firm stand.

But the matter needs to be settled once and for all. Campers should not be allowed to park wherever they please. Special areas, equipped with the required sanitary facilities, ought to be earmarked for them in given locations and those abusing the system must be heavily fined. In a response to this newspaper’s online report on the issue, a correspondent wrote he saw a family throwing a bag of rubbish into the sea where the caravans were parked.

The anything-goes mentality has now reached a dangerous point, one that is manifesting itself in so many spheres of public life that it is difficult to ignore. Unless swift, effective action is taken, the situation will deteriorate even further, causing even more inconvenience to all.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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