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‘Restaurantised, Not Pedestrianised’: Major Backlash To Marsalforn ‘Masterplan’

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After the €3 million Marsalforn Waterfront Project was inaugurated last Tuesday, Marsalforn’s residents and visitors alike flagged several issues that the project doesn’t seem to cater for.

The project pedestrianised Marsalforn’s waterfront, “so families and children can play freely without fearing any accidents”, according to Prime Minister Abela. He declared that Marsalforn had been given back to the people.

Restaurants over families

But those familiar with the area don’t particularly agree with that statement, with a Facebook user commenting: “The investment was for the restaurants, not the families.”

“Pedestrianised? More like ‘more room made for tables’,” another person said. “Cars out of promenade, tables in, and money in their pockets!”

Reader Charles Zammit has a summer residency in Marsalforn, and while acknowledging that the project gave the town a ‘much-needed lift’, he says the sterling work risks being overshadowed by inaccessibility issues.

Zammit says the excessive commercial areas allocated to the restaurant tables have been gradually taking over the sea-front promenade.

Restaurants weren’t allowed to put tables along the promenade and sea coastline in the past, but around six years ago these restaurants were given vast commercial areas on the other side of the front.

This image shows how the green area was the original table area. In the first extension, six years ago, the area was expanded to the yellow area.

This left a passage of a couple of meters along the coastline, so people could still walk by the sea.

However, two years ago even that passage (the red area) was occupied by restaurants. On the majority of the promenade, the people cannot walk beside the sea and along the Mendqa.

A critical reader commented: “Dear Minister, do families have to sit in a restaurant to enjoy their free time? Because as far as I have noticed those are the only seats available.”

And with restaurants taking over the waterfront, the benches that used to be there have also disappeared. “There were so many benches available before this renovation,” a Facebook user commented. Another said: “How about some benches where the elderly can sit?”

Lack of greenery

But that’s not the only issue with the waterfront project – greenery and environmental contributions were scarce as well.

One Facebook user commented: “Indeed an improvement, but not one single tree? Eco Gozo… When and where?”

“€3 million investment and yet the only sight of some greenery is some plants planted in shabby looking pots,” another said.

“And not a bloody tree in sight. It’s a big kitchen now, just like Xlendi,” a comment reads. “I would plant our large Mediterranean trees all alongside for shade, not umbrellas.”

“It was brilliant of you to plant a long row of tile trees. When they are watered directly through the new culvert system they will grow nice and strong and then we can export fresh Maltese tiles to every corner of the world,” one witty reader wrote.

Others criticised the big show that was made of the inauguration: “No imagination at all, just thousands of square metres of tiles. Just another photo opportunity for a few Ministers, posing for pole position!”

“Yesterday there were plants along the promenade, but I guess they were just intended for the opening’s sake”, someone else said.

No breakwater

Part of the Marsalforn Waterfront project is the breakwater, which will protect the bay from the rough sea during winter.

But “to prepare Marsalforn for summer”, the promenade was given priority – which might not have been the best order of development, as some commenters noted.

“It would have been a good idea to sort out the breakwater first. A few big storms and the new waterfront is going to be trashed” a comment reads.

“The largest-ever waste of money. Coming winter with no breakwater all will be in shambles.”

“In my opinion, the breakwater should have been done before this project! Now if a big storm hits, it will damage most of this” says another.

Accessibility issues

“What about access to people with mobility problems?” someone asks. Which is a concern that Zammit also flagged.

“Disabled people using wheelchairs and families with pushchairs end up walking in the pedestrian street for obvious reasons,” Zammit said. He noted that on his last visit, the tables at the front were filled up while those in the back remained largely empty.

“The restaurant owners should be supported in their work, but at the same time the people should be allowed unrestricted access to the promenade at least a passage along the front.”

“A sense of balance is lacking and enforcement is largely absent or superficial.”

What do you make of Marsalforn’s facelift?

READ NEXT: City Spotlight: Explore The Winding Streets Of Rabat, A Cradle Of Maltese Heritage

Belle dives deep into seas and stories. She’s passionate about mental health, environmental sustainability and social justice. When she’s not out and about with her dog, she’s more than happy to hear from you.

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