The Malta Independent 6 December 2022, Tuesday
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Monti saga: Winning design thrown out, government proposes stall in shape of Maltese bus

Gabriel Schembri Tuesday, 21 June 2016, 10:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The winning design for the new Monti stalls will not be used, even though the Chamber of Architects organised a competition and the winning architect was handed a cheque by the Ministry for the Economy.

Last week, Monti hawkers’ representatives were asked to attend a meeting with Alex Farrugia, a consultant from the Ministry of the Economy. Those present thought they would be formally presented with the official design chosen following a competition, a design which they were already familiar with. However, they were taken by surprise when Mr Farrugia popped up a photo of a mechanized, four wheeled container on the screen during the presentation.

The design, a copy of which was exclusively acquired by this newspaper, shows a stall designed to look very similar to the old Maltese buses, standing on wheels. Sources who do not wish to be named said that some of the Monti hawkers present found it hard to supress their utter surprise.

“It looks like an old Maltese bus cut in half with a couple of wheels. The shape is that of a motorized container. We definitely weren’t expecting anything similar to this.”

The names of the two architects who won the competition for the design of the new Monti stalls were announced during the annual general meeting of the Kamratal-Periti some two months ago. But the design was still being kept under wraps pending a decision by the Economy Ministry.

Hawker representatives managed to see some of the proposed designed and were happy to look at ideas that were “plausible and avant guard.” But those who were expecting to see one of these designs announced as the final one chosen, were welcomed with a simple “forget it” from Mr Farrugia. Instead, they were presented with this new ‘mechanized container’.

The Monti hawkers present reacted and those who spoke to this newspaper still can’t understand why the government insists on using this design, and why a competition was even held in the first place.

“We were a bit shocked to see a completely new design. Especially when we saw the wheels, which means that customers actually have to go up the container to buy. We are concerned over the government’s insistence for using such a design.”

Another concern for hawkers is space, as a mechanized trailer needs a garage to be stored in.

The meeting was held last week at the Projects House in Floriana. The design which appeared during the presentation is not the final decision and the building of such stalls will be handed to a winning bidder after a tender processtakes off.

Hawkers praised some positive proposals, among which the permission for stall owners to sell food and a spot for every licenced hawker retained for ten years.

However, hawkers have to pay €3.60 each daily for ‘market managers’ who will be responsible for order and cleanliness in the area. This fee is to be increased by 5% every year.

The actual stalls will be paid for by the government and the market managers will be supplied by a company chosen by the government. Hawkers were told that maintenance will come at the hawkers’ expense.

According to these hawkers, another issue which might arise from a mechanised trailer is that it has to be transported every time, thus causing more traffic congestion in the area.

This paper had confirmed that the winning architects are Ray Said and Rupert Pace. Architects who were present for the January AGM said they were surprised when Chamber for Architects President Christopher Mintoff suddenly announced the winners. Mr Said and Mr Pace then presented their design in a short presentation, before being presented with a cheque from the Economy Ministry by Mr Mintoff.

Lawyer Claire Bonello who is representing the Monti hawkers, told The Malta Independent that the hawkers appreciate the positive aspects of the design proposed but feel very concerned about the motorised containers proposal which they feel it does not relate to previous proposals. She said that this particular design does not consider the urban context of Valletta.

“Monti hawkers want to be treated in the same way as kiosk owners and other concessionaries of land. They are willing to pay a reasonable rate to a manager of their choice in order to supervise cleaning and other issues on site. But they are not looking forward to pay a third party arbitrarily imposed at the high rates proposed.”

Last March, the government had made a decision to buy off half of the monti hawkers in Valletta. The Monti hawkers who have bowed out and accepted the government’s offer of €80,000 will be receiving their money in three separate payments. A month earlier, this newsroom had revealed the government plan to get rid of half of the monti hawkers. This newspaper has been asking for a copy of the final design chosen even since, but with no success.

Government reaction

In a statement, the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business denies claims that the winning entry for the Monti-stall design has been scrapped and a new one has already been chosen. With the consultative and information sessions between the Ministry and Monti hawkers still ongoing, including discussions on the management and upkeep of stalls, content and wares, the design for the stalls has also been considered, as representatives and monti sellers have found the winning design aesthetically pleasing but have on multiple occasions voiced their concerns on the functionality of the design.

The current picture circulating in the media was an example of many shown during a closed consultative session of possible moveable stalls, also known as trailers, which do not require the necessary daily assembly and dismantling, as well as reduce the noise pollution generated during assembly, as do the current stalls being used by the Monti hawkers.

Some Monti hawkers have also expressed their preference for a fixed stall which, however, would complicate the process as it would require a Planning Authority permit, consultations with Transport Malta, as well as the closing of the street even when the market is not operating.

 

The Ministry would like to assure the public that the chosen plan and design will be consistent and compatible with the surrounding area, and no such decision on the design of the stall has been taken to date. The final decision on the chosen stall will take into consideration the suggestions of all stakeholders and the architectural significance of the surrounding area. 

 

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