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No end in sight for coastal caravan saga

Despite the situation being clearly out of control, the police only issued a handful of infringement notices for caravans around the island

Caravans parked at Bahar ic-Caghaq

There’s no end in sight for the saga of caravans ruining parts of the Maltese coastline. Enforcement notices and charges are few, rendering any police action insignificant.

Information provided by the police confirms that during inspections in Bahar ic-Caghaq, removal notices were issued for two abandoned caravans on the limits of Tas-Sikka s-Safra. Removal notices give caravan owners 15 days to move the vehicle.

Inspections in the area in front of Triq ir-Ramla resulted in two caravans being given a traffic offence ticket which, however, will not result in the vehicles being removed.

No irregularities were found after several inspections in the area known as Little Armier and in Ta’ Fra Ben in Qawra, two sites which have become synonymous with the large number of caravans cluttering the area.

This comes as a shock to anyone driving through the area, where caravans appear to have taken up permanent residence. Several owners in Ta’ Fra Ben particularly even took the liberty of placing a wooden pallet or artificial turf in front of their caravans.

The replies from the police indicate that this issue, which has been going on for years, is unlikely to change anytime soon. If police could not find any illegalities in places that are littered with dozens of caravans, then there is little else that can be done.

Still, when pressured, Minister for Home Affairs Byron Camilleri told parliament the police would monitor the situation at St Thomas Bay in Marsascala.The problem there looks as though it was solved.

Failure to take action in other problem locations sparked outrage on social media when The Shift revealed earlier this week that police had charged two persons for illegally parking their caravans in Mistra after “recent inspections”.

Dozens of commenters were angered by the low numbers, with one man posting, “Only two, seriously? Didn’t they see the others?”

A restaurant owner who has been battling the caravan issue in the once idyllic Mistra Bay told The Shift he hasn’t noticed any improvement there, and is planning to take legal action.

“Police can only enforce when there’s a law”

The Shift has reached out to the police asking to explain what laws are required for police officers to base their enforcement. A spokesperson clarified that the enforcement notices can only be placed on caravans which cannot be moved or driven.

“The police can only work when there’s bylaws introduced by the local councils,” the spokesperson explained.

If a caravan is parked in what is classified as a parking area, and can be moved, the police have no right to issue an enforcement notice.

The legal provision which allows the police to enforce, Reg. 7(1) of the Activities Requiring Permit by Local Councils, states that:

“No  person  shall  deposit  or  cause  to  be  deposited building material or other material or other objects in any street, without the authorisation of the Local Council.”

The spokesperson said that caravans, in this case, would fall under “other objects” referred to in the law.

The Shift reached out to the mayor of St Paul’s Bay, Alfred Grima, to ask whether the council had set up necessary bylaws for enforcement in the area known as Ta’ Fra Ben.

Grima confirmed that there are no by-laws in place with regards to caravans but said a recent council meeting approved a motion to set up a board tasked with drafting two by-laws, one on caravans and the other on encumbering objects.

The Mayor said he does not agree with the police that the issue falls under the local council, pointing instead to the Planning Authority that “needs to act immediately to protect the several plants such as the Wild Thyme and Golden Sapphire found on this coastal area.”

The Mellieha local council could not be reached for a similar question regarding Little Armier, but the police spokesperson said caravans in that area look as though they are temporarily parked, and therefore the police cannot issue enforcement notices.

“If they can be driven, it will be treated like a normal vehicle,” the spokesperson for police said.

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