The Malta Independent 19 December 2018, Wednesday

Ombudsman hits out at policy allowing payment instead of parking provision

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 14 March 2018, 16:55 Last update: about 9 months ago

The Ombudsman has hit out at a parking provision policy being used in Sliema, after the Sliema local council lodged a complaint against the Planning Authority on alleged incorrect application of policy with respect to development applications in the locality.

The Sliema local council told the Ombudsman that was preoccupied with the situation where the PA was approving a significant number of apartments, offices and hotels in the locality without provision for on-site parking, with repercussions on town-centre traffic from cars desperately searching for a car space leading to health concerns due to pollution.

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A total number of 104 applications for developments in Sliema submitted to the Planning Authority during the year 2016 were analysed. The Sliema local council alleged that the relative development permissions represented a shortfall of 184 car parking spaces and are in full violation of Planning Authority policies as these permits ignore the protection of the public realm and the more social objective; jeopardise the success and viability of overall development; deteriorate air quality through pollution leading to health hazards; and impose a contribution to the Commuted Parking Payment Scheme rather than imposing provision for on-site parking.

“The Planning Authority submitted its views against this complaint and referred to the transport thematic objectives in the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development that facilitate the modal shift from the private car to greener mode and the provision of an efficient public transport and other green modes whilst stating that less parking provision will lead to car users shifting to other modes of transport, namely public/collective transport,” the Ombudsman case report read.

“The PA submitted that further concentration of development within the Principal Urban Area (that includes the locality of Sliema) creates the critical mass of population required for feasible public transport provision and encourages the reduction of traffic through pedestrianisation, shared street spaces and traffic calming to continue restraining car-use and free up streets for pedestrians.”

“The PA also referred to the Development and Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 goal in collecting funds which are then used to enhance the environment, improve historic areas and manage parking by supporting the provision of strategically located public car parks and also that in exempting on-site parking this policy states that this exemption can be applied not only where on-site parking is not physically and technically feasible but also where it is undesirable.”

A detailed analysis of the 104 development applications submitted to the PA for the locality of Sliema during the year 2016 portrayed the following results:

Of these permits, 25 were for additional dwellings on existing buildings on which the Planning Authority imposed the Commuted Parking Payment Scheme. “These developments involve the addition of dwellings over existing buildings (mainly following the introduction of the height relaxation policy emanating from the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015). Although in this respect, this policy is a burden on the demand for on-street parking, the imposition of a €2,096 contribution to the Commuted Parking Payment Scheme for each parking space required is not enough to counter for the increasing demand for on-street parking, especially in similar dense localities such as Sliema. Even the PA’s argument that ‘Only when car users realise that it is not possible to park in Sliema will they start to consider shifting to other modes of transport. As long as parking spaces are ample (and cheap, if not free!) car use will continue to rise and bus patronage and use of green modes will continue to decline, …’ does not do much to solve the parking problem that various localities are facing. Statistics show that registered cars are increasing by the thousands and the use of public transport does not relieve the need for garages/parking spaces as the cars (whether on the move or not) still need to be accommodated somewhere.”

In addition, there were three approved applications for which the PA imposed the Commuted Parking Payment Scheme. “The PA could have showed more sensitivity towards the parking problem and obliged the applicants to provide more parking spaces as established in the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015.”

 

Time for Commuted Parking Payment Scheme for Sliema to be revised

With regards to three approved applications for tables and chairs occupying parking spaces, the Ombudsman said “In approving these permits, the PA did not consider the parking problems resulting from such developments, namely the parking spaces being lost by the same development and the additional demand for on-site parking emanating from the same development. On a general note, the CPPS for Sliema imposing a €2,096.44 (Lm900) ‘fine’ for each parking space has been in force for two decades and it is time that this scheme is revised, more so when the number of registered cars has almost doubled.”

The Ombudsman made a number of recommendations, including that the PA should “be more considerate and strict when processing applications that can result in a higher demand for parking spaces, and the PA should adopt a more positive approach by rewarding developments that provide for off-street parking rather than impose schemes that fine those who do not, especially in processing applications for outdoor catering areas.”

It called on the PA to embark on a study whereby the CPPS is revised and updated and to promote collective developments through various incentives, “ as collective developments can improve the provision of on-site parking through the efficient use of common accesses and circulation areas.”

In reply to this report, the PA submitted that “the CPPS calculation is regulated by a Planning Circular and both the Directorate and the Board follow the same circular. Moreover, I can assure you that the application of the so called ‘fine’ is always left as a last resort.” The PA said that a new study has just been completed and a document is currently being prepared for discussion internally and eventual approval.

The PA also said that government will be providing a scheme for site parking. The PA has already identified a number of sites with the relative plans for consideration by the Ministry.

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