Valletta’s infrastructural boom has residents wary

Accessibility, land use and space appropriation concerns were expressed by participants in a study on the impact resulting from infrastructure connected to Valletta 2018.

Antoine Zammit, who authored the study, said infrastructural projects such as the Valletta market worried participants in terms of space appropriation.

By space appropriation one understood areas such as the square in front of the revamped Is-Suq tal-Belt being taken over by tables and chairs.

Pointing out that people could only sit on the platform outside the Valletta market if they purchased items from there, Dr Zammit said the project was a missed opportunity to create a public space that could foster a stronger community.

He was addressing a seminar organised by Valletta 2018 themed ‘Culture matters’, held at the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

The study looked at four infrastructure projects: the abattoir, the Valletta market, Strait Street and the National Art Museum Muża.

Dr Zammit said some of the investment made was “clearly geared to attract short-term big business, rather than fostering a community”. He lauded projects such as the abattoir, which, he said, involved residents in the area during the design.

The study observed that, after 2012, there was a spike in Planning Authority applications and permits issued for change of use in Valletta buildings.

A big percentage of the applications were geared at developing commercial areas.

When gauging the result of the change in the four buildings, the study found a bigger impact in visual, aural and olfactory terms, also noting more litter being generated.

A sharp contrast was noted in the approach to the four mentioned sites. At one end, there was a community-driven and community-focused approach in the case of the abattoir. On the other hand, there was a market-led and thematic-based approach in the case of the Valletta market.

Accessibility and parking problems as well as “pedestrian-vehicle conflicts” were raised.

Many participants, particularly residents, lamented the nuisance caused by construction, noise and dust. Another study by anthropologist Michael Deguara highlighted similar concerns.

Residents, people born in the capital but living elsewhere, respondents from the inner harbour area and people with disabilities were interviewed for the study.

They complained about a shortage of parking spaces, which was seen as affecting accessibility to Valletta. This point was particularly, but not exclusively, raised by residents of the inner harbour area and people with disabilities.

Lack of spaces discouraged people with disabilities from going during Valletta 2018 activities.

At least two areas central to the Valletta 2018 programme of activities, Strait Street and the abattoir area, were inaccessible to those not able-bodied, the study said.

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