The main news outlets in Malta are dominated by the story related to the decision taken by the Planning Authority, to approve the controversial project on what was the Institute of Tourism Studies site in Pembroke.
The project was approved with 10 votes in favour and 4 against. PN representative Marthese Portelli, Pembroke Labour mayor Dean Hili, PA chairperson Vince Cassar, and Annick Bonello, who represents NGOs, were the four persons who voted against.
Those who voted against the project: Chairman Vince Cassar, Pembroke mayor Dean Hili, NGO representative Annick Bonello, PN representative Marthese Portelli
Those who voted in favour: Government representative Clayton Bartolo, ERA chairman Victor Axiak, deputy chair Elizabeth Ellul, Desiree Cassar, Timothy Gambin, Matthew Pace, Simone Mousu’, Jacqueline Gili, Ivan Tabone, Joseph Brincat. (TimesofMalta)
Some 260 members of the public gathered at San Gorg Preca College in Hamrun, where a strong Police presence was noted for the safety of those present. (TVM)
The Planning Authority’s chairman Vince Cassar voted against the proposal, explaining that he must be consistent with past positions he took on such projects in this area. He spoke of the need for a masterplan. At the very least, he said, he wants a profile of the plans for highrises in the area. This, he said, is over and above other concerns including the scheduled building which he believes should be kept as is. He also described the project as excessive. (The Malta Independent)
The eNGOs, as well as three local councils – Pembroke, St Julian’s and Swieqi – and Opposition Leader Adrian Delia had all said they were against the project. The project had received over 4,000 objections from the public.
During the meeting it was revealed by the planning directorate that the government had issued a letter of commitment to construct a road tunnel, which has been identified as necessary for the project. In fact, Transport Malta had stated that the tunnel was a condition for the project’s approval. (MaltaToday)
Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar has said that it is exploring the possibility of an appeal.
Newsbook provides a minute by minute update of what was said and by who during the discussion
The controversy about the project, was not limited to the environment. A series of elements was raised in view of how the land was transferred. A number of doubts were raised and a request for investigations by the Auditor General is still pending. Last year, government concluded a €60 million deal for the transfer of the 35,000 square metre site formally occupied by the Institute of Tourism Studies, to hotelier Silvio Debono of db Group.
The land was given to db Group on a 99-year emphyteusis, with the condition that the project be completed within five years of the planning permits being issued. In real terms, db Group will be paying a €15 million premium payable over seven years, and €23.4 million for the redemption of ground rent on individual residences included in the project. A further €11 million included in the €60 million price tag will not be actually paid, but represents the present-day capitalised value of ground rents that will be paid over 99 years. (Shift News)
db group is not new in terms of controversies. Recently, doubts were raised about a direct order given by the Government for the Management of the new wing at the San Vinenz De Paul residence for the elderly, which the government denied. In the past, there were also other issues related to the construction of the group’s site in Mellieħa. In the run up to the last general election, there was also another issue, where the db group was involved in a controversy related to party financing, in relation to money ‘donated’ to the PN.