The Malta Independent 28 May 2018, Monday

Pembroke residents gather at ITS site to protest proposed db Group mega development

Helena Grech Wednesday, 16 May 2018, 19:01 Last update: about 10 days ago

A group of around 200 activists, residents and concerned citizens gathered in Pembroke to protest a proposal by the db Group, which will see a hotel, residential tower and shops replace the old ITS building in St Julian’s.

The project has been mired by controversy from its inception after the government was accused of selling off the land for ‘peanuts’. The project will consist of a 37-storey residential tower and a 19-storey complex.

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Residents are also concerned about the sheer size of the project. 

The demonstration was organised by residents and supported by several NGOs such as Moviment Graffitti, Kamp Emergenza Ambjent, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Din l-Art Helwa, Nature Trust (Malta), and Friends of the Earth (Malta). A number of politicians also attended, including PN MPs Simon Busuttil and Karol Aquilina, Alternattiva Demokratika’s Arnold Cassola and the Partit Demokratiku’s Godfrey Farrugia and Timothy Alden.

Pembroke Protest from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

Moviment Grafitti’s Andre Callus told protestors it is clear that the residents of Pembroke will be buried alive, with little sunshine, heavy dust, disturbances, increased traffic and a disrupted environment. The land in question is in a residential area.

One resident mocked db Group Silvio Debono’s introductory remarks of the project’s proposal, where he had spoken of respect. She questioned who was being respected because the residents certainly were not.

Protestors held black cloth which signifies the shadow that would be cast over Pembroke.

A resident challenged the notion of respect questioning what respect Debono is showing the children of Pembroke who will have to suffer the disruptions of a once quiet and residential area.

She also pointed out an extract from the proposal where it was said that db Group considers itself a member of the community, to which the crowd scoffed in disapproval. The resident stressed that the people of Pembroke do not see him as part of the community.

DB Group and the government signed a 99-year temporary emphyteusis for the land for a €60 million price tag, which is split between a €15 million premium payable over seven years and €23.4 million in redeemed leases which will be paid by individual owners of the residential units and not directly by the group.

This is the second time in a year were Pembroke residents have protested a development.

Last August, a large group of residents along with NGOs protested against the development of a private school, Chiswick House School, on Gabriele Henin Street in Pembroke.

Apart from the existing traffic issues in the Pembroke area, residents have long expressed their concerns that the area’s infrastructure is not adequate to sustain the extra 7,500 daily car journeys into the area generated by the db Group project.  

A tunnel was proposed to mitigate the traffic impact, and has now become a focal point of the project. It was included in a Paceville master-plan which is now being re-evaluated. Architects behind the project, when asked specifically who will be paying for the tunnel and whether it will be built before or after the mega development kicks off, failed to give direct replies and instead asked people to refer to “public contracts”.

The Malta Independent asked Prime Minister Joseph Muscat about who would be footing the bill, and he too skirted the question by referring the journalist to the Paceville master plan.

 

The master plan states that the financial estimates for the tunnel "does not consider whether the measures proposed are financed by the public and/or private sector at this stage and are used to compare the options only at this stage."

This newsroom asked Moviment Grafitti’s Andrea Callus for his reaction to these non-answers, and he highlighted how people are being taken for a ride, stressing that this tunnel is supposed to be an essential part however nobody is able to answer legitimately when asked direct questions on the issue.

Pembroke Mayor Dean Hili who hails from the Labour Party said that the local council will be meeting next Tuesday to conclude its decision against the project and submit a formal objection. He said that enough is enough and that Pembroke simply cannot handle a project of that proportion.

PN Mayor of St Julian’s Guido Dalli said that the project will be the beginning of the end of Pembroke.

Callus, while addressing the crowd stressed that this is a non-partisan issue which can be seen from politicians of all parties present as well as his pressure group’s track record of opposing similar major developments under various administrations.

The crowd met at Pietru D’Armenia Street in Pembroke and marched towards the ITS site, where speeches by representatives of local councils and NGOs, as well as residents, were delivered.

 

The public can formally object to the project with the Planning Authority until Friday 25 May.

Photos: Michael Camilleri

 

 

 

 


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