The Malta Independent 29 January 2023, Sunday
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‘Government causing irreparable damage to Valletta identity, heritage’ – PN minority leader

Semira Abbas Shalan Sunday, 18 September 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

Government is causing irreparable damage to the identity and national heritage of Valletta, and future generations will judge us for this moment, local council minority leader Christian Micallef told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

The legal notice extending the time allowed for the playing of music by establishments in Valletta has caused a huge controversy over the past months. Owners of boutique hotels in Valletta have also been receiving requests for refunds over the loud music playing after 11pm, disturbing tourists who have come to visit the cultural city for its uniqueness.

The Malta Independent on Sunday last week interviewed Valletta mayor Alfred Zammit, who said that the loud music issue was under control and that residents had been misguided on the legal notice. He said that only “moderate” music is allowed in establishments between 11pm and 1am and that he had patrolled the streets himself to ensure that all restaurants and bars were abiding with the law.

“The legal notice is clear, music should be played at a moderate level between 11pm and 1am, meaning that I can hold a conversation with a person without having to raise my voice,” Zammit had said.

The extension of the curfew with regards to the playing of music in some Valletta streets from 11pm to 1am has sparked a protest among residents, who have said that their lifestyle has had to change. Government, however, did not amend the legal notice and voted against a motion by the Opposition to revoke it.

The question remains on what is considered as “moderate” music, with many rebutting that what is considered as moderate for some, may not be moderate for others. Following the interview, residents have taken to Facebook to express their concern over the legal notice as it is, which does not give a specific measurement of the number of decibels allowed in the streets of Valletta.

“If government really wanted to be serious on the legal notice it has issued, it should have listed how many decibels the sound had to be, and not classify it only as ‘moderate’ or ‘low’. It should also send someone to check with a Decibel Meter,” one comment said.

PN activist and Valletta resident Jake Scerri Seychell took to social media to express his disapproval over what the mayor said, posting videos of loud music being played in the streets of the city at around midnight on a Sunday.

He addressed Zammit, saying that he should not bring politics into the issue and reiterated that while being “pro-business” attracts quality tourists, there should also be a balance for residents to live comfortably and sleep at night.

Organisations have also challenged the mayor’s comments, with the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) releasing a statement saying that music-playing in Valletta has become too loud and that this type of entertainment is not fitting for the city as a high-end destination.

The MHRA appealed to government to suspend and re-evaluate the legal notice in a manner which promotes entertainment with conditions fitting for a high-end destination.

Valletta Cultural Agency chief Jason Micallef (above) has however provided different views over the issue, particularly challenging the MHRA’s statement over the loud music at night.

Asked for his reaction, Jason Micallef had said that the MHRA cannot pick and choose when and what to criticise. He said that the MHRA did not issue statements when there was abuse by restaurant owners who used public space for tables and chairs for their patrons.

“It would be wrong to try to undermine the economic, social and cultural success that has been achieved in the capital city in the last 10 years,” he said, referring to the presence of more people in the evening.

“Everybody benefited from this success, including restaurant and hotel owners in Valletta. The MHRA should be clear, as there are restaurants which play loud music in the evenings. Does the MHRA represent them?” the Valletta Agency chief asked.

He did admit that things could have been done better with regards to loud music at night and that he has passed this message when he had the chance.

Valletta council minority leader Christian Micallef (above) told The Malta Independent on Sunday that there is nothing regulating what “moderate” music means, saying that the mayor continued to show his disregard by attacking Valletta residents.

He said that the legal notice was created to accommodate Labourite businessmen with the blessing from Castille, who now think of themselves as omnipotent.

“The mayor is saying that there are few establishments not abiding by the rules, but this is false. The situation is not under control. He cannot be deemed credible as Valletta has become a jungle,” Micallef said.

He said that the issue has become political as Zammit is only looking at the PL’s interests.

“If it is truly under control, then why are owners of boutique hotels receiving complaints from tourists?” the PN representative asked.

He added that management under the PL government is causing irreparable damage to the identity and national heritage of the city, and this event will be judged by future generations.

Former Valletta mayor, Paul Borg Olivier, also challenged his successor with regard to the noise levels at night.

In a Facebook post he said that it was “rich” for Zammit to say that establishments were abiding by the new legal notice related to late music in the city and that it would be more appropriate for him to unplug his earphones and listen to the residents’ concerns rather that defend the indefensible.

He had also gone to Valletta to measure the sound levels in the streets, which resulted to around 80 decibels, just under the level of a car with its ignition on right outside one’s door.

Contacted by this newsroom, Borg Olivier reiterated that the word “moderate” has been left up to interpretation, saying that clearer instructions need to be given based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on sound levels.

“The legal notice is the problem. It has classified Valletta with areas such as Bugibba and Paceville, which have a totally different type of entertainment,” Borg Olivier said.

He said that the type of entertainment in Valletta should be matched with historic cities such as Florence and Rome, and not Amsterdam.

“The legal notice should be repealed if we truly respect Valletta. Night-time activity does not need loud music, but it is reflected in the character of the city. People want to come together for the exceptional beauty of the city and the city should not be turned into a concert after 11pm,” he said.

Borg Olivier warned that if the legal notice remains unamended, there will be a lack of investments in the long run, especially in boutique hotels which have sustained an important role in the quality of tourism attracted by the city.

“You do not need loud music for Valletta to stay alive at night; the city was alive way before the legal notice. We do not want Valletta to become a nightclub destination after all the investments we have put towards it,” Borg Olivier said.

Borg Olivier said that Brussels, Belgium, has a Decibel counter which is deliberate for the measurement of sound levels in the city. He said that the extraordinarily high levels of music could be heard from a corner away.

 

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