A consortium of 17 different groups have banded together to appeal the controversial approval of a 38-storey tower and a 17-storey hotel on the former site of an ITS school in Pembroke.
The 17 appellants includes three local councils – Pembroke, St. Julian’s and Swieqi – as well as NGOs and residents who have been spurred on after the approval of the towers, a decision that was taken when, among other things, one PA Board member was flown in on a private jet to vote in favour of the development.
Activists have since been raising funds to take on the multimillion Maltese company db Group, amassing nearly €25,000 in public donations in less than a week.
“Throughout the campaign, the public has shown its disapproval of this project, be it during the public meetings that were held by us or by the developers, at the Planning Authority’s sitting, and now this. It really shows what the public thinks of this project,” said a Moviment Graffitti representative to Lovin Malta. “It’s especially painful for the residents who live close to the area, but also the other portion of the Maltese who are tired of the rampant development happening on the island.”
With nearly €25,000 raised in mere weeks – €15,000 of it was raised in just the first four days following the PA’s decision – the fight against the db Towers seems set to enter its next stage: the appeals stage
Pictured: Residents and NGOs have been working to stop the db Towers for months
The consortium have filed an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal against the decision of the Planning Authority
“Donations towards this campaign are still being accepted for possible legal action against the db Group project, beyond the appeal with the EPRT,” said the consortium in a public statement.
“Special thanks to all those who have given their donation and those who are contributing to this campaign in one way or another. The eager participation in this campaign is a result of the public’s outrage at a project that will benefit the very few at the expense of the people’s wellbeing and the environment, and thanks to public support, our fight to protect the environment and our quality of life continues,” they ended.
The fundraising campaign for the ITS-DB Legal Action Fund is supported by eight NGOs: Friends of the Earth, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, BirdLife Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Ramblers Association, Nature Trust (Malta) and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left.
Pictured: An artist’s impression of the tower and the surrounding area after development
People have been critical of the project since it meant the sale of public land to a private company
The project involves giving public land that the ITS building used to occupy to the privately-owned db Group for around €60 million. The public land will become a 37-storey residential tower, a 17-storey Hard Rock Hotel featuring 455 rooms, alongside a casino and a shopping mall.
db Group have defended their project, saying they paid a fair market price – and the highest price in Maltese history – for public land
The developers behind the project have released 10 points proving the project is above board and in line with all European laws.
- For the first time in Maltese history, the market value of public land has been set by an auditing firm of global reputation, namely Deloitte.
- Using the formula established by Deloitte, the db Group will be paying a total of 60 million euro for the land in question, the highest price ever paid per square meter for a comparable project in the last 20 years. This remains the case even when the increase in price index is factored in.
- Under oath in court on 7 May, 2018, a Deloitte partner declared that they met with various promoters of similar projects in St Julians “to understand exactly the market in the area”. Following these meetings, and keeping the requirements of the RFP in view, he reconfirmed under oath that €60 million was in fact the market value of the City Centre site.
- The Deloitte partner also testified that, to support its work, the firm had engaged the architectural services of various architects, amongst them Profs Alex Torpiano.
- The public call for submissions for the project was in full conformity throughout with all applicable local and EU laws.
- The db Group will be investing 300 million euro in the project.
- This amount makes it the largest private investment by an individual in the history of Malta.
- In total, the City Centre project will generate around €490 million of direct revenue to government over a 10 year period.
- The project includes the creation of an underground carpark for 1,700 vehicles.
- Once the project is completed, the contract obliges the db Group to create 1,500 jobs. If not, the Group will have to pay a penalty. This is apart from the work and jobs created during the construction phase.