Graffitti ‘disappointed but pursuing further legal action’ after court ruling

The court decided against an appeal raised by eight NGOs which opposed the db Group project slated for the former ITS site in Pembroke on Wednesday morning, with Andre Callus from Moviment Graffitti saying they “could not be more disappointed”.

The NGO, however, said it will “pursue other legal action” when contacted by The Shift.

Following the court’s decision, db Group’s Pembroke project, which was first proposed in 2018, will see the construction of three towers, 17, 16, and 12 storeys high on land handed over by the government in a deal the National Audit Office found to have had irregularities.

Moviment Graffitti’s Andre Callus said that “As soon as the sentence came out, my first thoughts were about the residents in the area who will have to endure the ruination of their quality of life while being buried alive in the construction”.

The project initially comprised a 37-storey tower and an adjacent 17-storey hotel but db Group rehashed their plans following massive public opposition.

Graffitti’s appeal was launched in 2021 following four years of appeals and demonstrations against DB Group’s plans to build the high-rise in Pembroke, supported by activists, local councillors and residents alike.

Callus said that “We shouldn’t lose sight of how db Group got the land in the first place, through government deals where deemed irregular by the National Audit Office,” he continued, saying that “the government took advantage of its at-the-time strong position in the eyes of the electorate to pass such underhanded deals.”

When considering the NGOs’ pleas within their appeal, the court noted that the points raised were of a technical rather than legal nature, with Justice Chetcuti opting to refer back to the EPRT’s initial decisions and justifications.

Speaking to The Shift, Callus said that this created a Catch-22 situation for Graffitti, given that these were the very points they were contesting in the first place. “The EPRT is a farcical authority which is totally captured by the government”.

EPRT ‘vitiated’

When speaking to The Shift, supporting NGO Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) spokesperson Astrid Vella similarly noted that “the supposedly independent EPRT is vitiated by the fact that its chairman is a Planning Authority employee”.

The EPRT is chaired by Joe Borg, who was asked to take unpaid leave from his Planning Authority position while he chaired the ‘independent’ tribunal reviewing complaints against the same authority.

“This shows politicians’ deceit when they repeatedly claim that NGOs and the public can find redress for Planning Authority decisions within the EPRT,” she added, referencing statements by former Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia.

Vella called for PA Board members’ accountability, to shoulder responsibility for the project’s impact on the mental and physical health issues which will be caused by the air pollution and vehicle emissions caused by the project, issues which she also raised in last Saturday’s ‘Xebbajtuna’ protest.

Professor Alex Torpiano, president of NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa, who was a supporting party in the appeal, said that while DLĦ has faith in the courts, it is nonetheless disappointed in its decision.

Torpiano said that projects in the area require a masterplan which goes beyond a simple physical building plan and considers touristic and economic visions for the area, an issue which he had highlighted in comments to The Shift regarding the neighbouring Villa Rosa project.

BirdLife Malta, also a supporting party to the proceedings said that the appeal’s rejection was “undoubtedly disappointing”. They commended the community action taken by the NGOs, local councils, and residents.

Graffiti’s Callus similarly told The Shift that while not a consolation to the residents that have to face the “monstrosity”, “the unprecedented sense of community action created in the course of our fight against this project is of immense value and significance, which cannot be erased by any court decision”.

Moviment Graffitti is currently seeking to take additional legal action in the hopes of stopping the project from reaching fruition.

Throughout the appeal, Moviment Graffitti was represented by lawyer Claire Bonello with db Group represented by lawyers Stefano Filetti and Ian Stafrace.

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Charles Cilia
Charles Cilia
3 months ago

I wish somebody will total how much people’s taxes have been wasted transferring ITS to temporary Air Malta premises after extensive also temporary refurbishment before again being eventually moved again to their would be final location in Smart City with its enormous cost to buy, build and furnish as an international institute exactly to what it used to be before Muscat (handed) it to DB,
Compare all that temporary costs against what DB paid or still to pay. No wonder the auditor general had a lot to say about the difference and the ultimate benefactor

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