St Julians mayor Albert Buttigieg has lashed out at the supposedly new plans presented by DB Group for the St George’s bay project tower, saying these were superficial and just glossed over the issues of the first set.
“I personally feel that DB Group is trying to take us for a ride. For instance, in the new plans, they are proposing more open spaces but for them to be credible, they have to guarantee that these will not be filled with chairs and tables from the surrounding establishments,” he told the Shift.
Saying that the “monstrosity” was still present in the new plans, Buttigieg pointed out that the Tigne project had also promised open spaces. “But the moment they see a child running around they go and stop him”.
In fact, three councils joined forces to oppose the project as St Julians, Swieqi and Pembroke will officially file an objection to the new plans together with another 10 NGOs.
The €300 million DB Group project on the site of the former ITS school in Pembroke to build a 37-storey tower and 17-storey hotel, had attracted widespread opposition and the highest number of official objections ever recorded.
The controversial project had its permit revoked one year ago after The Shift News revealed that one of the Planning Authority’s board members that approved the project had a conflict of interest.
Buttigieg pointed out that the best approach for such big projects was for it to form part of one, well-organised holistic plan for the area. “We have to look at the feasibility of how much the area of Pembroke and St Julians can really take,” he said.
This is a common sentiment expressed by the councils and NGOs contesting the project.
Moviment Graffiti issued a statement saying these revised plans did not in any way address the concerns about the huge negative impact on the quality of life and the environment.
“The residents’ concerns about being ‘buried alive’ relate primarily to this monstrous hotel structure which, due to its height and width, will overshadow the locality and throw the thousands of residents living across the road into permanent darkness. Nothing has changed in this regard.”
Andre Callus, from Moviment Graffiti, also criticised the ongoing publicity campaign by dp Group about the new plans with the slogan “we listened, we acted,”saying it was “false, simply because it’s built on a lie”.
“The group did not listen to the outcry of the public, they were stopped by the courts,” said Andre Callus from Moviment Graffiti in comments to The Shift.
The public will not fall for it because, in reality, nothing significant changed, he added.
Pembroke mayor Dean Hili said the council agreed with the NGO’s statement and position but explained that certain changes in the plans were worth a mention.
A number of issues were successfully addressed by the developers following numerous meetings between council members and the owners of DB Group.
“The new plans reflect a general downsizing of the whole structure and with that comes less shading and more natural light. They also committed to more public spaces and removed the casino and weddings venue from the plan.”
However, Hili noted that, despite these changes, the project was still significant in size. “We don’t agree with the whole size of the project. But if this is going to go forward at least we want this to have minimal effect on our residents.”
The developers had to submit fresh plans after The Shift revealed a conflict of interest by one of the Planning Authority’s Board members who voted in favour of the project. Board member Matthew Pace owned a real estate agency that was selling apartments for the project.
The project was also slammed by a National Audit Office report that major concerns and discrepancies in the site transfer of the former Institute for Tourism Studies.
In fact, Projects Malta, the government entity that issued the tender, had failed to obtain authorisation from the Contracts Department before issuing a request for proposals back in 2015. Konrad Mizzi was the minister responsible for Projects Malta when the whole controversy began.
The statement was signed by the Pembroke, St Julian’s and Swieqi councils and the Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth, Isles of the Left, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust, the Archaeological Society of Malta and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left.