Regularisation of Billboards and the Bike Sharing Market
In anticipation of a legal notice which will be published on Friday 2nd February, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Ian Borg and Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market Chris Agius called a press conference in the presence of Johann Buttigieg, James Piscopo and Carlo Mifsud, the heads of the Planning Authority, Transport Malta and the Lands Authority, respectively.
Minister Borg explained how, after a consultation process which took place in April 2017, Government will be regulating better the billboard market. This will take place through an improvement of the application process, which will now consist of a direct line of communication between the three entities. The Minister explained how this will be reducing abuse, as operators will be obligated to pay what they owe the people for making use of public land for commercial purposes. A strong element of enforcement will accompany all of this. Hon. Borg also said that these changes will also lead to regulate where adverts can be placed, and named scheduled properties, sites or zones, Grade 1 or 2 buildings, the countryside, against rubble walls, trees or utility poles, and near the coast as some of the places where this will not be permitted. He added that Transport Malta will be consulting with an engineer on every case so that he or she can ensure that advertising through billboards takes place in a way that does not create obstacles for those who pass through the area, does not negatively affect driver visibility and ensures that the structure itself is secure.
Minister Borg explained how Transport Malta will be identifying 10 sites for the placement of billboards for the benefit of NGOs as during consultation, they expressed that although they wish to use this means, it is not financially viable for them.
Hon. Borg also spoke about the bike sharing market, which will also be better regulated with the publishing of guidelines for operators. The Minister said that while work to promote alternative means of transport is ongoing, as is clearly shown by the project SMITHS and several other initiatives being taken by the Ministry and Transport Malta, the need was felt to regularise the bike sharing market. This concept, which is relatively new to our country but which is moving in the right direction, will now also be subject to these guidelines which will ensure that the infrastructure of this service is not detrimental to the environment and does not pose obstacles to accessibility to buildings or on sidewalks or to driver visibility, said the Minister. He added that this legal notice will also ensure the creation of a market where operators can compete on a level playing field, while safeguarding both the interests of the operator and those of the customer, with the safety of the latter taking precedence in the established conditions. Changes also include payment of permits and licence for all those who wish to operate with this concept, but payment is being kept at minimum level so that the service, and therefore more alternative means, is given another boost.
The Minister concluded by saying that in fact, these two initiatives are important for the Government to continue ensuring that all use of public land is done at an appropriate cost for operators in the interest of the people.
In his address, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market Chris Agius explained how in the first quarter of last year, a public consultation on the regularisation of Billboards and Adverts was launched. After weeks of wide consultation, the Planning Authority, the Lands Authority and Transport Malta finalised a legal notice. This notice explains how in order to be given a permit for a billboard, this has to come from the three responsible entities mentioned above. Hon. Agius added that every billboard needs to be certified by an engineer and tied to a safety policy. He said that sports clubs will be exempt from paying permit costs for billboards in sport facilities, that the office of the President of Malta will be given ten billboards which will also be exempt from permit costs, while another ten billboards will be made available to NGOs. Hon. Agius concluded by saying that thanks to this legal notice, Government will be bringing about a more serious way of managing this business.