The Malta Independent 21 November 2018, Wednesday

NGOs raise €20,000; appeal against db City Centre project to go ahead

Monday, 22 October 2018, 09:42 Last update: about 30 days ago

€20,000 in donations has been raised for several NGOs to move forward with an appeal against the controversial City Centre project, which was approved some weeks ago in Pembroke.

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Andre Callus from NGO Moviment Graffiti confirmed the number, and said that the NGOs were going to keep accepting donations so that a legal fund could be set up for any future appeals or legal actions.

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Callus said that the appeal against the City Centre project is moving forward, and that it is currently being formulated by their legal and architectural teams.

The City Centre project, the proponent of which was the db Group, was controversial ever since its inception.  Taking the place of the Institute of Tourism Studies and initially planned to have two huge skyscrapers and a hotel, there was controversy over how the land was granted to the db Group in the first place.  It had emerged that the group had bought the land for €15 million, way below its market valuation of €200 million.

In recent days, the European Commission said that if it was not verified that the property was sold at market value, its sale to the db Group would qualify as “state aid”.

Since the initial release of the plans, the project was reduced to include only a 38-storey tower and a 17-storey hotel.  It was approved by the Planning Authority in late September, despite the project receiving thousands of objections.  It was approved by 10 members to four.

Amongst those objecting were three local councils – Pembroke, St. Julian’s and Swieqi – and 12 NGOs. 

In a press conference days before the decision was taken, the coalition of objectors had said that the PA should refuse the project in “no uncertain terms”.  Following its approval, eight NGOs and the three local councils set up a fund to cover the extensive costs needed to appeal the decision, which ran up to the tune of €15,000.

The NGOs were Friends of the Earth, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, BirdLife, Moviment Graffitti, the Ramblers Association, Nature Trust and Żminijietna – Voice of the Left.

Amongst those who voted in favour of the project was board member Jacqueline Gili.  It later emerged that the PA had authorised and paid for her to fly into Malta from a family holiday in Sicily on a private jet.  The decision to fly Gili in on this private jet cost €8,750 and was authorised by PA Chairman Johann Buttigieg.

The decision attracted widespread criticism with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat saying that he disagreed with it, and with the Opposition calling for Buttigieg’s removal.  Only some days ago, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said in Parliament once again that he disagreed wholeheartedly with the decision, but when faced with questions over whether Buttigieg should be told to vacate his post; Borg reminded that the PA was an “independent and autonomous” body and that Buttigieg was well within his rights as chairman to authorise the spending of such an amount.  Only when a spending figure exceeds €10,000 does the PA need further approval from other bodies.

 

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