The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

Labour government ‘accomplices’ in PA’s ‘scandalous’ decision, says MP Karol Aquilina

Jeremy Micallef Tuesday, 2 October 2018, 20:12 Last update: about 3 months ago

Opposition spokesperson on Reform, Citizenship, and Simplification Karol Aquilina lambasted the Labour Government as being 'accomplices' in the Planning Authorities (PA) 'scandalous' decision, when it approved the db Group plans by 10 votes against 4.

The development proposes an overall gross floor area of 109,919 square metres set into the following main components:  An 18-storey hotel with an overall area of 51,417 sqm;  A 38-storey tall building with 1,090 sqm retail area and 32,713 sqm residential area;  A shopping mall with an 18,753 sqm commercial area; offices with an area of 3,232 sqm; and an entertainment areas covering 3,604 sqm.

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This decision, he said, 'completely annulled the credibility of the PA', further commenting that this 'has confirmed that in our country there are a small group of people with limitless amounts of money that has allowed them to do what they want'.

"And they are doing it with this government allowing them to do so."

The db Group project being approved was not the end of the controversies, as the Planning Authority chairman Johann Buttigieg had authorised the use of a private jet to transport Jacqueline Gili, a board member, to Malta from her vacation abroad in time for the decision.

He went on to point out the various ways he felt the government was complicit in this decision by pointing out that "it was the government that pushed the ITS students out", and that "it was the Labour Government that did all it could to give this land to the db Group".

He also accused the government of changing planning policy to accommodate this development, whilst also putting trusted persons on the PA board to approve the plan.

He continued by criticizing the government for ignoring the various objectors to the project.

"The government chose to ignore the residents of Pembroke; the local councils of Sliema, St Julians, Pembroke, and Swieqi; NGOs and environmental groups; and they also ignore the 4,500 people around Malta who objected to this project."

Aquilina also brought up the case officer responsible for the report on which the decision to approve the plans were taken, alleging that "instead of doing his job, he stretched the meaning of the policies to approve the db Group's plan".

"Instead of stopping this, they became accomplices."

He expressed his disappointment with ERA Chairman Victor Axiak specifically, insisting that Axiak let down "everyone present (at the meeting) and the public in general because he is meant to be there as the chairman representing the environment".

"These members will remain written in history as the people who when trusted to make a decision, went against the residents of Pembroke and the Maltese citizens. They allowed the db Group and Government to bully them into this scandalous decision."

Going back in time, Aquilina said that the members of the db Group were so sure about receiving the land of ITS and approval to build a 5-star hotel, that they had been boasting about it since January 2013.

"A few weeks after the election the developers already had the ITS plans with a hotel build on it."

He also pointed out competitors for the lands had said that there was no point in competing as that land was already promised to the db Group.

He ended his speech with a rallying cry to the other objectors to not give up on the project.

"This is not the time to give up on this project, now is the time to increase our efforts against it. This is the time to raise voices against this project. This is the time to use all the methods available by law to stop this project."


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