After four years of appeals and demonstrations against DB Group’s plans to build a high-rise in Pembroke, activists, local councillors and residents are set for another showdown with DB Group as crowdfunding efforts have led to another appeal against the project.
The project, mired in controversy since its announcement, has been primarily opposed by Moviment Graffitti and local councils from Pembroke, St Julian’s and Swieqi, along with eight other environmental NGOs, all of whom have signed the appeal filed with the environment and planning review tribunal.
In a press statement, Graffitti said: “The appellants are requesting the annulment of the PA decision allowing DB group to build two 18- and 17-storey towers and a 12-storey hotel, on public land in Pembroke, in a residential area with disastrous impacts on important historical sites and areas of great natural sensitivity”.
“The appeal was made possible thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign during which a total of €20,000 was collected from hundreds of donors,” the statement adds.
In their appeal, the objectors doubled down on concerns voiced over the years as the project evolved, including “the project’s non-conformity with many planning policies, the defective and incomplete studies submitted by the developer and a manipulated process leading to an unfair planning board meeting and decision”.
The project is set to be built on top of what once used to be the site for the Institute of Tourism Studies, public land that was given to DB at a fraction of its full price, with the group easily overcoming the discounted price tag via sales of its high-end apartments.
The press statement, signed by all the appellants, also refers to legal actions taken by the group of objectors in 2018 after The Shift had revealed a glaring conflict of interest held by one of the members of the planning board, Matthew Pace.
In spite of thousands of objectors voicing their disapproval of the massive project, the planning board had voted in favour of the project in 2018 when Pace was one of the members of the board.
His conflict of interest had arisen from the fact that Pace was also as a REMAX franchise owner, a real estate agency that had already begun selling apartments in 2016 before the site had even been awarded to DB.
“Legal actions undertaken following the 2018 decision had ultimately led to the cancellation of the 2018 permit,” the group said.
“The strong public response to the recent crowdfunding campaign will once again enable appellants to take the full range of possible legal actions aimed at the revocation of the permit.”
“Another appeal challenging the environment and resources authority’s decision to approve the environmental impact assessment of the project is already underway.”
Prior to the planning board’s most recent controversial approval of the project, the board of the environment and resources authority had unanimously approved revised environmental impact assessment filed by DB after the group had to change its plans after the project’s reputation spiralled further downward when The Shift exposed Pace’s intimate involvement with the project.
While DB claims the land and overall amount of space as well as the activity generated were scaled down, objectors had maintained that the project’s effect largely remained the same.
In spite of the environmental regulator’s own directorate concluding that the revised plans had the same level of significance in terms of environmental impact as the previous version of the project, the authority’s board voted in favour.
Referring to their latest attempt to stop the high-rise project from overshadowing Pembroke’s residential area, the project’s objectors thanked supporters for their contributions towards the appeal.
“We commit ourselves to make every possible effort to stop big business and public authorities from running roughshod over the people’s will to protect its environment and quality of life,” the group said.