The Malta Independent 20 January 2022, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Caravans for votes?

Saturday, 7 August 2021, 09:33 Last update: about 7 months ago

The issue of illegally placed caravans has again come up in the news this summer.

After Infrastructure Malta finally took action against the caravans which have long blighted the shoreline at Mistra Bay last June, these caravans seemed to have found a new home at an area just beyond Bahar ic-Caghaq along the Coast Road.

Here again they have parked up on public land and made it their own – in fact the area, close to the Maghtab landfill, is currently subject to a planning application for it to become a temporary caravan site.

The caravan migration prompted some annoyance from residents and from the local council responsible for the area – that of Naxxar.

As a result, the council unanimously agreed to enact a by-law to stop caravans and camper vans from parking permanently along the Coast Road. Once this was enacted the next step in the process was to send it to local government Minister Jose Herrera in order for it to be published in the government gazette.

This is where things came un-stuck.

Herrera’s ministry has blocked the by-law from going through – essentially meaning that it is dead in the water and that the local council can do nothing to enforce the law when it comes to these caravans.

Here one must wonder – what is the motivation behind Herrera’s ministry blocking this by-law? The ministry has said that they want to discuss this at a national-level first – but in truth we know that this will be a long-drawn out process which may take months.

It may even, coincidentally, take until the next general election – which is at the very most now only 10 months away. Is it a matter of caravans for votes? Or caravans to make sure votes aren’t lost?

Whatsmore, this is another case where a local government has been conveniently side-lined from discussions and ignored – Naxxar’s mayor Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami said that questions to Herrera’s ministry on the by-law and on whether this supposedly temporary caravan area which is being planned would ultimately become permanent had fallen on deaf ears.

One again wonders – what is the point of local governments when it can’t even take decisions on things which concern areas in its own locality? Are local councils there to just coordinate when the rubbish should be picked up? We’d like to think that they aren’t, but if the national government doesn’t even consult them when taking decisions – let alone listens to them or gives them power to govern their locality – then it’s not hard to reach that conclusion.

Lest we be misunderstood: caravan owners definitely should have a dedicated area where they can enjoy camping with their caravans – one with all the necessary amenities and with an adjoining entry cost like any other campsite around the island.

That dedicated area however doesn’t need to be on a prime coastline area – there are various places which aren’t necessarily right on the shoreline which would be ideal areas as well – and that dedicated area should come following consultation with the local government like any other project.

With that, a balance can then be achieved: caravan owners will be able to enjoy their time in a suitable place, while public land is not taken up illegally by the few over the many.

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