PLANS by Palma City Council to upgrade the market neighbourhood of Santa Catalina down near the Paseo Maritimo have been met with approval by local businesses and residents.

The building project, which includes converting a stretch of Calle Fábrica into a pedestrian-only zone, is not proving so controversial as the urban reform scheme which was introduced in Calle Blanquerna last year and which originally excluded car parking. Following an outcry however, the plans were eventually modified.

In fact, the restructuring programme in Santa Catalina which is due to begin this coming Spring, was first called for by bars, cafés and restaurants in the area as long ago as ten years. Businesses believe that with partial pedestrianisation, they are going to be able to attract and serve the public in less cramped conditions. “Terraces will be able to spill into the street more freely,” a traders' association spokesman said yesterday.

What the association does not agree with, however, is that with the bulldozers and pneumatic drills scheduled to go into action in May, clientele may be lost at a time of year when both visitors and residents would be providing important business. As a result, the association is planning to meet with the City Council to see if dates for the Santa Catalina upgrade can be altered.

Bar, café and restaurant owners are also anxious that the building programme won't eliminate the controlled “ORA” parking system which has been set in place in Santa Catalina, because having to pay for leaving a car at the roadside has meant a faster turnover of people, thus providing greater trade.

Businesses also want the reform to be undertaken in conjunction with approval of residents because they don't want increased trade to be accompanied by a drop in the quality of life in Santa Catalina.