Il-parkeġġ fl-Isptar Mater Dei

Matul il-kampanja elettorali għall-elezzjoni ta’ mexxej tal-Partit Laburista, wieħed mill-kandidati, il-Ministru għas-Saħħa Chris Fearne,  ħabbar li dalwaqt ser jitneħħa kull ħlas għall-parkeġġ tal-isptar Mater Dei.

Mal-ewwel d-daqqa t’għajn din tidher proposta tajba u raġjonevoli. Imma meta tibda taħseb ftit fuq l-implikazzjonijiet tagħha malajr tirrealizza li l-għan aħħari ta’ din il-proposta mhux faċli li jintlaħaq. Il-problema tan-nuqqas ta’ spazju għall-parkeġġ hi ferm iktar ikkumplikata u mhux ser tissolva billi jinqata’ l-ħlas.

Dawk li jużaw il-parkeġġ fl-Isptar Mater Dei huma pazjenti li jżuru l-isptar għall-visti (out-patients), persuni li jkunu qed iżuru lill-morda f’kull ħin tal-jum, impjegati tal-isptar u ħaddiema ingaġġati fuq xogħol kuntrattwali fil-konfini tal-isptar. Ilkoll kemm huma ta’ kuljum jiffaċċjaw in-nuqqas ta’ parkeġġ, ħlief dawk li għandhom spazju riżervat għalihom tul il-ġimgħa kollha, irrispettivament minn kemm jużawh.

Dawk il-pazjenti li jżuru l-isptar Mater Dei għal vista mal-ispeċjalisti diversi huma ġeneralment fost l-iktar persuni vulnerabbli, l-iżjed minħabba l-istat ta’ saħħithom. Għaldaqstant jagħmel ħafna sens  li jkun iffaċilitat għas-servizzi tal-isptar. Iżda għalihom it-tneħħija tal-ħlas għal parkeġġ mhi ser issolvi xejn. Anzi, aktarx l-affarijiet imorru għall-agħar.

Il-problema tal-parkeġġ fl-Isptar Mater Dei ġejja minn żewġ fatturi separati u distinti minn xulxin għalkollox. L-ewwel nett hi r-riżultat tal-użu mhux daqstant effiċjenti tal-ispazju tal-parkeġġ fil-konfini tal-isptar. Il-problema, qed tiġi kkaġunata wkoll mill-fatt li fit-toroq għandna għadd esaġerat ta’ karozzi, ħafna iktar milli jifilħu t-toroq tagħna. Dan, kif jirrimarka l-Pjan Nazzjonali għat-Trasport, jaħti għalih il-fatt li fil-qasam tat-transport ma ppjanajna qatt fit-tul.

Kieku l-ispazju tal-parkeġġ fil-konfini tal-isptar Mater Dei kellu jintuża b’mod iktar effiċjenti, bla dubju l-problema kontinwa ta’ nuqqas ta’ spazju tittaffa, avolja aktarx xorta ma tissolviex għalkollox.

Mhux biex nikkunslaw, imma tajjeb niftakru li l-problema tan-nuqqas ta’ spazju għall-parkeġġ mhix limitata biss għall-isptar Mater Dei, iżda hija mifruxa mal-gżejjer Maltin kollha.

Din hi riżultat tad-dipendenza esaġerata mill-karozzi li qed ikomplu jiżdiedu jum wara l-ieħor u li allura jikkompetu għal spazji dejjem iżjed limitati.

Dwar in-numru mhux żgħir ta’ pazjenti li jżuru Mater Dei għal xi vista huwa ovvju li wieħed ma nistgħux nistennew li dawn jużaw transport alternattiv. Dan minkejja li għadd minnhom diġa jinqdew bit-transport pubbliku b’mod regolari. Bosta minnhom ikunu jeħtieġu l-għajnuna biex ikollhom aċċess adegwat. Din l-għajnuna jsibuha mingħand il-qraba u l-ħbieb bl-użu ta’ karozzi privati.

L-awtoritajiet tal-Isptar Mater Dei għandhom ifasslu pjan li jindirizza l-ħtiġijiet tat-trasport ta’ dawk kollha dipendenti mill-isptar (pjan li jissejjaħ Green Transport Plan) biex ikun identifikat l-aħjar mod kif jistgħu jintużaw il-faċilitajiet tal-parkeġġ tal-isptar. Dan għandu jindirizza mhux biss il-ħtiġijiet tal-pazjenti fis-sodod tal-isptar u tal-impjegati imma ukoll ta’ dawk kollha li jżur l-isptar f’kull ħin tal-ġurnata.

Dan il-pjan mhux biss jista’ jidentifika soluzzjonijiet prattiċi għat-titjib fl-infrastruttura tal-isptar iżda wkoll jindika l-aħjar mod kif din tista’ tintuża. F’dan ix-xenarju mbagħad it-tneħħija tal-ħlas għall-parkeġġ tkun dettall pjuttost insinifikanti.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 5 ta’ Jannar 2020

Parking at Mater Dei Hospital

Within the context of the electoral campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party, Minister for Health Chris Fearne announced that, shortly, parking at the Mater Dei Hospital grounds will be free of charge.

At face value this is a reasonable proposal. However, when one tries to understand the implications of such a proposal it is obvious that this is easier said than done. The problem of lack of parking space is much more complex and it will not be unravelled by abolishing parking charges.

Users of Mater Dei Hospital parking are out-patients, those visiting bed-ridden patients, hospital staff and contractual workers carrying out duties within hospital grounds. All of them face a daily acute shortage of parking space, except, possibly, a small section of staff who have access to reserved parking on a 24/7 basis irrespective of the time they actually make use of it.

Mater Dei Hospital out-patients are among the most vulnerable of the Maltese population. So, it stands to reason that any measure aiming at facilitating their reasonable access to the services at Mater Dei Hospital would be most welcome. However, the availability of free-parking will not solve their parking problems. Rather, it will possibly make matters even worse than it is at present.

The parking problem at Mater Dei Hospital is the result of two separate and distinct factors. Firstly, it is the result of what is possibly an inefficient use of the available parking space within Mater Dei Hospital grounds. Secondly it is in itself a reflection of the large number of cars on our roads, which, as everyone knows, are bursting at the seams. This, as our Transport master plan points out is the result of an absence of long-term transport planning in the Maltese islands.

A more efficient use of the available parking space within the grounds of Mater Dei Hospital would undoubtedly contribute to reducing the parking problems faced by all users of the hospital, but it will most probably not solve it. At the end of the day the lack of parking space is a problem common to all sectors of Maltese society: it is an issue of over-dependence on the use of private cars with an ever-increasing number of cars competing for limited parking space.

It stands to reason that one cannot expect a number of out-patients to use alternative transport. Some already make use of public transport on a regular basis. Most would however need some form of help with their transport requirements which help is generally forthcoming from family and friends through the use of private cars.

The Hospital authorities need to draw up a Green Transport Plan covering the needs of the hospital’s stakeholders and the optimal use of the hospital facilities for this purpose. Green Transport Planning would analyse the requirements not just of the hospital’s patients and its staff: it would also project the requirements of those visiting patients.

At the end of the day the Green Transport Plan for Mater Dei Hospital would propose practical solutions in improving the hospital’s infrastructure as well as in optimising the use of its facilities. In this respect payment or non-payment for parking would be just a minor detail.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 5 January 2020

Business friendly: il-flus qabel in-nies!

Art pubblika qed tittieħed minn stabilimenti tal-ikel u x-xorb biex tkun estiża l-attività kummerċjali tagħhom fit-triq u dan bil-konsegwenza ta’ diversi problemi għar-residenti u l-komunitajiet tagħna madwar Malta.

L-aħħar każ fl-aħbarijiet hu dak ta’ Triq il-Kbira San Ġiljan li seħħ wara li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ħarġet permess biex f’żona li sal-lum kienet riżervata għall-parkeġġ jibdew jitqegħdu l-imwejjed u s-siġġijiet. Sid l-istabbiliment aġixxa hekk kif irċieva l-permess tal-ippjanar mingħajr ma qagħad jistenna għal deċiżjoni mingħand l-Awtorità tal-Artijiet dwar jekk jistax ikun aċċettabbli li art pubblika tintuża bil-mod propost.

Il-qarrejja probabbilment jiftakru li xi żmien ilu l-Awtorità tal-Artijiet kienet irrifjutat applikazzjoni simili fix-Xatt il-Gżira. F’dak il-każ partikolari appell ta’ lukanda minn deċiżjoni tal-Awtorità tal-Artijiet biex flok spazji għall-parkeġġ tal-karozzi fi triq ewlenija jitqiegħed platform u fuqu imwejjed u siġġiet kien irrifjutat. It-talba biex jitqegħdu l-imwejjed u s-siġġijiet kienet irrifjutata minħabba li kienu ser jonqsu żewġ spazji għal parkeġġ kif ukoll minħabba tħassib dwar sigurtà tan-nies.

Minkejja din id-deċiżjoni li ttieħdet iżjed minn sena ilu mit-Tribunal Amministrattiv jidher li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar għadha marbuta mal-interessi tan-negożji.

Ikun floku li niftakru li d-dokument bil-politika tal-ippjanar dwar it-tqegħid ta’ imwejjed u siġġijiet fi spazji pubbliċi kien imfassal minn kumitat inter-MinisterjalI li speċifikament kien eskluda l-parteċipazzjoni ta’ rappreżentanti tal-lokalitajiet tagħna. L-interessi tal-lokalitajiet, kemm dawk tar-residenti kif ukoll dawk tal-Kunsilli Lokali kienu kompletament injorati. Iktar minn hekk, meta l-materja kienet ikkunsidrata mill-Kabinett, mid-dehra l-Ministru tal-Kunsilli Lokali Owen Bonnici kien rieqed għax kieku bla ebda dubju kien jiġbed l-attenzjoni ta’ sħabu li l-Liġi dwar il-Kunsilli Lokali, fl-artiklu 33 tistabilixxi li hi funzjoni ta’ kull Kunsilli Lokali li “ jagħti pariri lil u, li jkun ikkonsultat minn kull awtorità li tieħu xi deċiżjonijiet li direttament jew indirettament jolqtu l-Kunsilli u lir-residenti li jkunu responsabbli għalihom.”

F’kull parti tal-pajjiż, il-Kunsilli Lokali huma rrabjati dwar kif dawn ir-regoli speċifiċi tal-ippjanar ġew imfassla, approvati u implimentati b’mod li jpoġġu n-negożju u l-flus qabel in-nies.

F’dan il-każ speċifiku ta’ San Ġiljan l-ispażju pubbliku li hu propost li jittieħed hu presentment utilizzat għall-parkeġġ.

Ipprova imxi fuq il-bankina fix-xatt bejn il-Gżira u tas-Sliema u ibqa’ għaddej max-Xatt ta’ Tigne. Tkun mixja diffiċli minħabba li n-negozji għamlu l-bankina tagħhom (bil-barka tal-awtoritajiet) u dak li hu tal-pubbliku ikkapparrawh: mhux biss il-bankina imma ukoll kważi kull spazju għall-parkeġġ.

Li tipprova timxi fuq il-ftit spazju li ħallew hi diffiċli ħafna għal kulħadd imma l-iktar għar-residenti li joqgħodu fl-appartamenti fis-sulari ta’ fuq dawn in-negozji. Jiffaċċjaw kull xorta ta’ diffikulta mill-ħruġ tal-iskart, li bilkemm ħallewlhom fejn dan jitpoġġa kif ukoll anke diffikulta biex idaħħlu fi djarhom għamara ta’ kull xorta. Dan hu r-riżultat tal-politika tal-Gvern tal-lum li tpoġġi l-interessi tan-negożju qabel l-interessi tan-nies: politika business-friendly. Infrastruttura sigura u aċċessibli għan-nies hi kontinwament mogħtija l-ġenb kemm mill-Gvern kif ukoll mill-awtoritajiet pubbliċi.

Jiena dejjem kont tal-fehma li l-Ippjanar għall-użu tal-art hu għan-nies. Sfortunatment dan ġie ttrasformat f’magna li tiffaċilita l-qliegħ tal-flus.

Għamel sew Albert Buttigieg, is-Sindku ta’ San Ġiljan, li sabbat saqajh u rreżista l-aħħar attentat tan-negozju biex bl-għajnuna tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jibqa’ jħarbat il-ħajja tan-nies. Kien ukoll f’waqtu l-intervent tal-President tal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Kunsilli Lokali Mario Fava waqt il-konferenza stampa li fiha dan l-abbuż inġieb għall-attenzjoni tal-istampa fejn saret enfasi ukoll li dawn ir-regoli li jippermettu dawn l-abbużi jitwarrbu illum qabel għada.

Ilna ngħidu li wasal iż-żmien li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar teħtieġ li tiġi f’sensiha.

Kull żvilupp konness mal-ispazji pubbliċi fil-lokalitajiet tagħna għandu jsir biss kemm-il darba jkun hemm il-kunsens tal-Kunsilli Lokali tagħna. L-art pubblika għandha isservi l-ħtiġijiet tan-nies qabel dawk tan-negozji.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 22 ta’ Diċembru 2019

Public Land: private profits

The taking up of public land by catering establishments to extend their commercial activity beyond the limits of their property has been creating problems for residential communities all over the island.

The latest case, in Main Street St Julian’s, has developed after the Planning Authority issued a planning permit for the placing of chairs and tables in an area so far reserved for parking. The owner of the catering outlet acted on the approved planning permit without waiting for a decision from the Lands Authority as to whether it is permissible to use public land in the manner proposed.

Readers may remember that, some time back, the Lands Authority refused a similar application on The Strand in Gzira. In that specific case, a hotel had – on appeal from a Lands Authority decision – been refused permission to place chairs and tables on a platform to be constructed in lieu of parking spaces along a main road. The request for placing tables and chairs had been rejected as it was then proposed to take up two parking spaces and, in addition, due to safety concerns.

Notwithstanding this decision, taken more than 12 months ago by the Administrative Tribunal, it seems that the Planning Authority is still chained to business interests.

It is pertinent to point out that the planning policy document on outside catering areas in public spaces was drafted by an inter-Ministerial committee which specifically excluded representatives from out local communities. The interests of our local communities – residents as well as local councils – were completely ignored. Moreover, it is most probable that, when the matter was being considered by Cabinet, the Minister for Local Councils, Owen Bonnici, was fast asleep as otherwise he would undoubtedly have drawn to the attention of his colleagues that article 33 of the Local Councils Act deems it a function of local councils “to advise and, where applicable, be consulted by, any authority empowered to take any decisions directly or indirectly affecting the Council and the residents it is responsible for”.

All over the country, Local Councils are up in arms against the manner in which this specific planning policy was drafted, approved and is being implemented because instead of being people-friendly it is simply business-friendly.

It this specific case at St Julian’s the issue is with parking spaces. Try walking along the pavement in The Strand from Gżira to Sliema and then onto Tignè seafront. It would be a very difficult walk because business has taken over and transformed a public asset into a private asset. Navigating through the small amount of unoccupied space left available is a nightmare for pedestrians and it is even worse for residents living in residential units above ground floors that are occupied by catering establishments.

This is the result of a policy that puts business interests before the interests of residents: accessible and safe infrastructure for people do not feature in the policies of either the Government or the public authorities.

I have always been of the opinion that Planning is for People. Unfortunately it has been transformed into an easy money-making machine.

Albert Buttigieg, the Mayor of St Julian’s, was quite right in putting his foot down. It was likewise appropriate for Mario Fava, the President of the Local Councils Association, to participate in the press conference which drew attention of the press to this abusive action and to the need to scrap the offending policy forthwith.

It is about time that the Planning Authority is brought to its senses. Public open spaces in our localities should not be touched without the consent of local authorities: public land is for public use not for private profits.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 22 December 2019

In Tourism – small is beautiful too

Villa del Porto Kalkara

First published in 1973, Ernst Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful – economics as if people mattered has always presented a challenge to politicians and economic planners. It contrasts to, and in many instances it actually is, the direct antithesis of the “economies of scale” and as such it is often discarded by those who dream of quick results.

Schumacher, an economist by training, had one specific message: the promotion of people-centred economics. Our economics are profit-focused, with decisions being constantly made on profitability criteria, rather than on human needs. People should come before profits.

Human needs as well as environmental impact should be factored in at the drawing-board stage of all economic decisions. Reading through plans and strategies on the development of tourism in Malta over the years, one inevitably reaches the conclusion that these plans and strategies are focused on hotels, as if nothing else mattered. Tourism is, however, much more than hotels and the hotel industry.

It is only fairly recently that some thought is being given to boutique hotels and agri-tourism: alternative, small-scale tourism opportunities.  Yet much more needs to be done if we are to move along the path of sustainable tourism which, whilst being practically harmless environmentally, can be of considerable benefit not just to our economy but also to our families, in particular those in small communities.

Earlier this week, I was alerted by residents in Lija to an application submitted to MEPA [PA2822/15] to convert a large townhouse in a residential area into a boutique hotel. This proposed hotel would have nine bedrooms with ancillary facilities and it covers a total area of 1,110 square metres, including a garden. When finished, it could cater for a maximum of twenty guests.

Being small, such a boutique hotel would  fit in easily in any of our towns or villages. Its impact would be compatible with that generated by three or four families in the community. Being generally family-run helps considerably to give a human face to this tourism outlet as well as offering excellent service.

However the local residents are  worried about the compatibility of this development with the residential nature of the area. Their worries are not just about the impact of the hotel’s services but more on the possible spinoffs such as whether the bar and restaurant, as well as the swimming pool  – to be constructed in what is currently the garden – would be open to people who are  not actually staying in the hotel. The residents are worried about noise pollution well into the silent hours, the generation of increased traffic and subsequent parking problems – problems they associate with such spin-off activities.

The residents cannot be blamed for their concerns because no one has explained what the practical operational limits of boutique hotels will be – and this is because there are no MEPA guidelines on the subject. The various applications for the provision of boutique hotels that MEPA has processed in the recent past are considered within existing general policies. Likewise, perusal of the Malta Tourism Authority’s website does not reveal any guidelines to help prospective developers of boutique hotels navigate the relatively unchartered waters of such an activity in a residential area.

A number of local councils are similarly concerned because, although they understand and appreciate the benefits to the local economy of encouraging the use of large properties as boutique hotels they are apprehensive about the collateral damage to community life. Large townhouses as well as historical buildings in our towns and villages can be given a new life by being converted to boutique hotels but great care must be taken to ensure that this development is not driven by economics alone. It needs to be community driven and local councils in particular need to be partners in this drive to develop an untapped area of sustainable tourism.

If handled properly, it is potentially a win-win situation but the concerns of the residential communities must be addressed immediately. If this is done, tourism will take a gigantic step forward as it will develop a human face.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 23 August 2015

It-traffiku: l-Gvern jaqbad il-problema minn sormha

 

buttocks 3

 

Meta l-Ministru tat-Trasport Joe Mizzi kien qed jitkellem f’konferenza stampa fir-Rabat qal li kien ser jippreżenta għall-konsiderazzjoni tal-Kabinett dokument ta’ policy dwar il-parking. Dan qalu huwa u jinawgura skema ta’ park and ride fir-Rabat li qed issir b’koordinazzjoni bejn diversi restoranti biex jipprovdu parking għall-klijenti tagħhom.

X’ser ikun fiha din il-policy m’għandix idea, pero’ naħseb li  l-Gvern mhux mill-parking għandu bżonn jibda, iżda min-numru ta’ karozzi fit-triq li jeħtieġ li jonqsu. Mhux policy dwar il-parking hemm bżonn imma policy dwar dawk l-inċentivi li huma neċessarji biex inqas nies jagħmlu użu minn karozzi privati. Hemm ħafna x’jista’ jsir dwar dan, imma s’issa kemm il-Gvern kif ukoll Transport Malta huma siekta dwar dan.

Ir-riforma tat-transport pubbliku għandha bżonn ta’ għajnuna biex tirnexxi, għajnuna li tiġi biss b’inċentivi li jħajru n-nies iwarrbu l-karozzi privati. U la bil-parking u l-anqas bil-proġetti li jixorbu l-miljuni.