Fabian Demicoli

Valletta Shop Scheme

The Valletta shop scheme launched in 2015 has come to an end earlier this month with over 100 applications submitted by operators of Government owned shops in Valletta.
 
Was the Scheme a success or not?
Prior to answering this question, a few points need to be raised. This was the second version of a scheme for Valletta shops, the first one being launched offering only the option of a long lease. That was definitely not a success. It was GRTU’s prerogative to discuss with Government for the second scheme to be a greater success. GRTU successfully proposed that in lieu of rent, shop operators should be offered an emphyteutical grant (cens). This had a multitude of attributes. Firstly it would provide much needed collateral to the shop operator. It would provide greater security of tenure to forthcoming generations. It
would allow shop owners to give their shops on lease. It would lift the burden of maintenance from Government’s shoulders. Crucially, it would give Government the opportunity to update the Lands Department files with correct information as to who actually holds the title over any particular shop.
 
Nonetheless, one flaw which Government insisted on retaining from the previous scheme was the zoning which identified the price bracket that the shop operator would have to pay in order to benefit from the cens. The zoning was and still is flawed because it does not reflect the value of the properties situated in Valletta’s streets correctly. Government should analyze the application submitted in depth because it will evidently shows which zones were successful and which weren’t.
 
The value of retail outlets in Malta and Gozo is extremely location sensitive. Valletta being the case in point, is not only street sensitive, in many cases values differ widely from one stretch of the same street to another, and in certain cases even one side of the same street to another.
 
GRTU believes that this scheme was undoubtedly a success when compared to the first scheme. However, considering the hundreds of Government owned shops in Valletta alone, the success could have been much larger if careful attention to the zoning was given before its launch, as GRTU had warned at the time. For example, on the eleventh hour, Government accepted to change Zachary Street from Zone 1 to Zone 2. However, GRTU’s pleas to change zoning in parts of St John’s Street, parts of Merchants Street and St John’s Square to name a few, fell on deaf ears.
 
GRTU still believes that there is room for improvement if Government goes back to the drawing board when it comes to zoning and this may be applied not only to Valletta as a pilot project, but also to the other localities in Malta and Gozo.
 
GRTU solicits Government to start a consultation process as soon as possible to determine which zones need to be amended,
and how to amend them.

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