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Car-free day turned into ‘glorified Sliema street party’

The Strand expected to be closed to traffic

The Strand in Sliema will be blocked off today. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

The Strand in Sliema will be blocked off today. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Updated 9.50am with Transport Malta replies

A car-free day is being held today along the Strand in Sliema to mark the end of European Mobility Week and encourage people to travel using more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

But the event has been used by Transport Malta to turn the Sliema road into a “glorified street party”, leaving residents stuck inside their homes, Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop fears.

In a Facebook event, Transport Malta and the European Mobility Actions Malta encouraged people to “get stranded”, in an event called “The Strand Alive”.

Transport Malta planned to have the Strand closed to traffic from this morning until tomorrow at 1am.

Transport Malta and European Mobility Actions Malta uploaded a Facebook event encouraging people to “get stranded”.Transport Malta and European Mobility Actions Malta uploaded a Facebook event encouraging people to “get stranded”.

It also proposed the setting up of a music stage. Catering establishments would also be encouraged to set up tables and chairs onto the traffic-free street, the Sliema council said in a statement.

“There will be a takeover of noise, which residents at Sliema already have a problem with,” Mr Chircop said, adding that rather than an environmental awareness activity, the event will simply be a street party.

“The event seems to appease and create more business opportunities for the number of catering establishments that regularly abuse by blocking off pedestrian access on the pavements at the Strand,” the Sliema council added.

“We insisted that no permits will be issued by the local council for additional tables and chairs,” Mr Chircop said.

After meetings with Transport Malta, the car-free day road closure period was minimised until 4pm today, following objections by the local council. Transport Malta also “abandoned” plans for the street-party approach to the car-free day, following objections, the council said, stressing that residents should be given unrestricted access to their properties. Transport Malta, citing safety concerns, said it will not allow this, the council said.

Mr Chircop said the council would always support initiatives aimed at encouraging sustainable means of transport. But where wasthe 'sustainable' logic in Saturday's Strand initiative, he asked.

A spokesman for Transport Malta said the activities planned were meant to be in line with similar events throughout major European cities, where on-street entertainment is key.

The authority tried to accommodate for the concerns raised “at the last minute, by the local council and in fact drastically curtailed the times of the event, trying, fruitlessly, to appease them”, it noted.

The spokesman went on to thank the Gżira, Dingli, Għarb, Mqabba, Żebbuġ, Safi and St Paul's Bay councils who “believe in encouraging sustainable transport”.

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