Residents appeal Naxxar high-rise, Labour councillors backing PN mayor

Labour councillors push motion that claims Nationalist mayor voted in favour of project “after consultation with residents”

Council clashes: only one PN councillor voted against the Labour motion, saying it was re-interpreting what had taken place in the meeting preceding the PA decision
Council clashes: only one PN councillor voted against the Labour motion, saying it was re-interpreting what had taken place in the meeting preceding the PA decision

Residents in Naxxar have successfully filed an appeal against a high-rise development on the former Trade Fair grounds, despite being at loggerheads with their own local council representatives.

Backed by lawyer Claire Bonello, and NGOs Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal-Ambjent Aħjar and Għaqda Kulturali Wirt Naxxari, the residents are appealing the PA decision, that was also backed by a vote in favour from Naxxar mayor Annemarie Muscat Fenech Adami.

Local councillors are now trying to shore up the mayor, who is resisting calls to resign by PN leader Bernard Grech, over an alleged conflict of interest. The mayor claims there was no conflict of interest when she did not declare to the local council that she was a company secretary in a firm partly owned by Edwin Mintoff, the architect of the controversial 10-storey tower project she voted in favour of.

Despite the council never officially minuting a vote to be in favour of the project, the Labour councillors are now backing the embattled Nationalist mayor, with a motion that re-interprets the events of previous meetings.

Labour minority leader Marlon Brincat, an ally of the mayor, put forward a motion on 19 January stating that Muscat Fenech Adami’s vote in favour of the project “reflected the council’s opinion”, “that this opinion was expressed in the 27 October 2021 meeting”, “that her vote against would have been against the council’s wishes”, and “that the council’s opinion was formed after meetings with residents”.

Nationalist councillor Joseph Spiteri protested, saying that such a motion ‘re-interpreted’ the outcome of a meeting in which no vote was taken on what the position of the council should be.

He read out the minutes of the council meeting preceding the PA’s decision, in which the council agreed to tell the PA it was not in agreement with the heights of the project.

Spiteri also said Brincat’s motion was unprecedented in that it could be used to change what had already been minuted in previous meetings, and voted against. PN deputy mayor Chris Deguara and councillor Mark Deguara abstained on the motion, while PN councillor Maryanne Cuomo voted in favour, together with the mayor and the Labour councillors, to carry the motion.

Labour minority leader Marlon Brincat was vocal in the meeting in supporting the mayor, insisting there was “no need to take any vote” and said that the trade fair ground was destined to be developed. “We cannot fool the people – there is no chance that that place can be turned into some garden or park…”

Naxxar project

Nationalist mayor Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami voted for the project, a two-tower complex at the former trade fair grounds, despite the council having previously said it was opposed to the proposed height just a month ago.

Muscat Fenech Adami happens to be a company secretary in a company where the apartment complex project architect Edwin Mintoff is a shareholder.

She has been asked to resign after she failed to declare her conflict of interest, but she will face a party disciplinary committee for refusing to resign.

The independent candidate, Arnold Cassola, has reported Muscat Fenech Adami to the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, requesting an investigation. “The mayor is caught up in a conflict of interest not only because she betrayed Naxxar’s residents with her vote, but because the project’s architect is a shareholder in the company she serves as secretary… her arrogant behaviour betrays the shambles of our political mentality that is spreading from parliament to our councils.”