The Malta Independent 19 August 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Beach concessions gone wild - Hands, and sun beds, off our beaches

Saturday, 3 August 2019, 10:31 Last update: about 16 days ago

While we welcome the recent crackdowns on a handful of beaches infested with illegal sun beds and deckchairs, as well as this week’s action in Ghadira in which operators were supposed to have been called in on Wednesday for talks over their ramshackle takeover of Malta ‘s biggest beach, more needs to be done along such lines.

More in terms of crackdowns on unlicensed operations and more in terms of ensuring concession holders abide by the conditions of those concessions to the letter.

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But over and above that, it is the concessions themselves that should be reviewed, perhaps with an accompanying public consultation to see exactly how much the Maltese public themselves are attached to such furniture being placed, many times empty, on public beaches, and in the process depriving people of prime spots for their beach towels – all in the name of purely private monetary gain.

It would be interesting, for example, to learn just how many Maltese bathers take up sun beds or umbrellas on the beaches that many of us visit every day in summer.  And it would be similarly interesting to see, when you quantify that, to also qualify that by weighing the balance between supply and domestic demand, for it is the domestic that really matters here in this context, no offense to tourists intended.

Sometimes we really need to ask ourselves where our priorities lie, and this is one such example.

For years on end now private individuals have been granted concessions for beach umbrellas, sun beds, deckchairs and other beach furniture infesting entire beaches at times and at other times leaving but narrow passageways through the plastic cluttering that are meant to be public beaches.

The 2016 Public Domain Act, it should be recalled, was enacted with the intention of safeguarding the Maltese foreshore, but that law appears to be interpreted by operators in strange ways in some cases, and completely ignored in others.

Not only does it need to be enforced, but also reviewed.  It is of course the government’s duty to ensure the rules are correct and that they are adhered to, especially when it comes to public land, the little of it that we have in this country.

And, it must be reminded, that the country’s entire foreshore is public domain, and not the domain of economic operators of any sort – be they sun bed and umbrella pliers, or kiosks or hotels with their own dubious concessions.

The government must put an end to selling off our beaches to private businesses, whoever they may be, and the public is urged to insist on their rights on their own beaches. 

No one has any inherent right to stick sun beds by the dozens on our beaches, or hotel facilities, and they should not be allowed to do so.  And if they are to be allowed to do so, then the least we would expect would be for them to follow the rules.  Is that really too much to ask for?

The entire policy of awarding such concessions, their parameters, and their very existence deserves a thorough review.

And maybe, just perhaps, it is time to consider nationalising the system.

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