Local councils, NGOs take DB project battle to court

Three local councils, eight NGOs, and several Pembroke and Swieqi residents have filed court actions against the DB project’s approval on the ex-ITS site

Three local councils, eight NGOs, and several residents have filed two court actions against the approval of the massive DB project on the ex-ITS site.

The Pembroke, St Julian’s, and Swieqi local councils filed the actions with ACT Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, Rota, and the Archaeological Society Malta. Several Pembroke and Swieqi residents also filed the appeal.

One of the court actions appeals the Environment Resources Authority’s (ERA) approval of the project’s Environmental Impas Assessment (EIA) for the project. The second action appeals the Planning Board’s go-ahead to the project, which the groups said disregarded planning policies and involved an unfair and irregular process.

The two court actions were filed after the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) rejected two appeals last month.

“The EPRT decision to reject our appeals was expected, since the Tribunal has an abysmal track-record of consistently ruling against objectors and in favour of the Planning Authority (PA) and other powerful forces,” Moviment Graffitti said in a press statement.

The NGO pointed out that the EPRT had rejected their appeal against the first approval of the DB project in 2019. Its ruling was later overturned by the court, and the permit was cancelled.

As it stands, the DB’s proposed development is composed of two residential towers of 17 and 18 storeys each, as well as a 12-storey hotel. The development would stand on formerly public land next to two Natura 2000 sites.

Moviment Graffitti added that the project would also be built around and on top of the scheduled St. George’s barracks and the scheduled Għar Ħarq il-Ħamiem cave, a submerged terrestrial cave system of unique geological and ecological value, as well as other sites of historical significance.

The DB Group aquired the ITS site in a controversial land deal approved in February 2017 under the aegis of former minister Konrad Mizzi.

The initial plans for a 38-storey tower and a 17-storey hotel were first approved in a controversial sitting in 2018 during which a planning board member was brought over to Malta in a private jet to vote.

Residents have repeatedly expressed their alarm about the massiveness and intensity of this disproportionate development in a predominantly residential area and the foreseen spillover of Paceville into Pembroke.

“Thanks to a strong response to a crowdfunding campaign last year, we are once again in a position to continue fighting this monstrous project by undertaking Court actions,” the NGO said.