A Planning Authority chairperson who had censored a Moviment Graffitti activist and who was accused by NGOs of “acting as a lawyer for developers” has been removed from his position.
The Environment and Planning Ministry announced today that Simon Saliba has been removed as chairperson of the PA’s board dealing with applications within development zones and replaced by Claude Mallia.
Saliba has been moved out of the board entirely and into the Regularisation Board, replacing Stephania Baldacchino who has now moved to the Within Development Zone board.
Last July, a group of 11 environmental NGOs called for Saliba to resign after he cut off a Graffitti activist’s microphone during an online meeting which ended with the approval for 18 apartment flats to be built over a site where cart ruts are present.
“I was giving my intervention about a similar site in Mosta, Tal-Qares, where historial cart ruts had been destroyed and punic tombs were cemented over – and they cut me off, saying it was out of point,” Karen Tanti told Lovin Malta back then.
The NGOs warned that Saliba had repeatedly shown disrespect for residents and other objectors during Planning Authority sittings, “openly and aggressively siding with the developers instead of fulfilling his role as an impartial judge”.
Graffitti recounted how Saliba had once declared his opposition to an application for a ferry pontoon in Balluta before “hastily changing” his decision to an approval during a session in which he “bizarrely acted as a lawyer for the developers”.
“On one occasion, he even asked a resident to be escorted out of a hearing simply because she insisted on her right to object.”
“Mr Saliba’s arrogant attitude and outdated mindset, together with his consistent defence of developers’ interests rather than the public good, contrasts starkly with the fresh start promised by Minister Aaron Farrugia.”
Lovin Malta understands that Saliba’s removal was the result of a direct intervention by Environment and Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia in what is the latest shake-up at the Planning Authority.
Last February, the Ministry removed Elizabeth Ellul as chairperson of the PA board dealing with development applications in places outside development zones and in urban conservation areas.
Ellul had regularly drawn the ire of activists who feel the Planning Commission and the Planning Board do little to protect the island against developers’ interests, when it comes to ODZ and UCA locations.