On a 1.3km stretch of road marking the border between Gżira and Sliema known as Triq ix-Xatt, the Planning Authority (PA) has processed at least 50 applications linked with outdoor catering areas in the last decade.
Out of those 50 applications, the PA approved 35 (70%) of them, refusing just seven (14%), an analysis by The Shift has confirmed.
Five of those 50 applications remain pending, and three others remain unresolved – a stroll along the coastline clearly shows that the PA’s lax consideration for public space has led to visibly encumbered, difficult-to-navigate pathways.
Overall, the applications show a clear uptake of parking bays and public pavement for the placement of enclosures, canopies, tables and chairs, and other related infrastructure. Nineteen of the 50 applications listed in this article sought to sanction illegal works.
While the analysis is not comprehensive and does not consider every street in Sliema, it is a representative example of how the problem has aggravated over the years.
Based on The Shift’s analysis, one name in particular stands out due to the sheer volume of applications filed – the Head of Malta Developers’ Association, Michael Stivala.
In total, 11 of those applications in Triq ix-Xatt list Stivala as the applicant, all of which were approved. The approved applications are all linked to outdoor areas catering for Stivala Group’s various business interests in the area, including the Bayview Hotel and the Sliema Hotel, among others.
Black Gold Saloon, pictured below, is owned by a different Michael Stivala.
McDonald’s, Burger King, Oasis and The Brew are another four catering establishments that breached planning laws by taking up public space for their outdoor areas, only to then obtain approval to sanction.
Hotel Kennedy Nova, which lists one of its directors, Rachel Sammut Alessi, as the applicant in relevant development applications, has applied for two encroachment permits since 2017.
The hotel managed to secure approval to place tables and chairs in front of the entrance in 2017 – the following year, Sammut Alessi submitted another application on the hotel’s behalf to formalise the outdoor area with a canopy and a demountable wooden platform.
The application was approved, and then appealed by Sliema’s local council. The appeals tribunal sent the application back to the PA for reassessment last year. Two other appeals for separate establishments filed by the local council in 2018 were refused by the appeals board.
Much like what happened in Valletta over the last decade, the PA’s enforcement against illegal development in Sliema, coupled with extremely weak planning laws, leaves much to be desired.
In Triq ix-Xatt’s history since 2012, just 11 enforcement notices were found on the PA’s Map Server. The PA’s enforcement was so weak that, in some cases, the establishment owners applied to get in line with the law before the law enforcement authorities even noticed an issue.
Update: the article previously referred to Black Gold Saloon being owned by MDA president Michael Stivala – Black Gold Saloon is owned by a different person with the same name.