DB chief executive hits back at critics as hotel group steams ahead with project

DB Group CEO Arthur Gauci says company “will expose publicly uttered falsehoods”

The DB Group, hoteliers whose City Centre project and Hard Rock Hotel in St George’s Bay is the subject of contestations from residents and environmentalists, has hit out at critics who took the company to task for reactivating its planning application.

The company’s permit for its project was struck down by a Court of Appeal which found that the presence of Matthew Pace, a REMAX affiliate, on the Planning Authority board that decided on the project, had been a conflict of interest.

In a statement, the DB Group insisted that the court had not pronounced itself or raise any concerns against the merits of the permit, but against the Planning Authority.

“What the court did do… is chastise certain PA Board members who had made public statements about the project prior to the board hearing. Our original application had followed the planning process and policies openly and in their entirety. Following this long and rigorous process the PA Board approved the permit by a 10-4 vote. It bears repeating that at every step of the process the db Group was found to have fully adhered to all the applicable policies. Indeed, in many instances, we did more than we were expected to by the Planning Authority,” DB chief executive Arthur Gauci said.

“Yet we did more than just honour and respect the court judgement. We went beyond by filing a judicial letter against the Planning Authority itself, holding it legally and financially responsible for the damages we are suffering as a result of the sentence against it. Our logic is crystal clear: we will not have our rights denied as a consequence of what the court saw as the PA’s shortcomings.”

Gauci also insisted that the court judgement did not mean the DB Group had to go through the whole planning process again.

“The Court of Appeal did not request a fresh application as is being falsely suggested and in fact ordered the continuation of the hearing at Planning stage. We are merely reactivating our application, with some positive changes we have been working on for months. Even the PA number shall remain the same,” he said.

The DB Group is now proposing the retention of the former ITS building, a Grade 2 scheduled building, to re-integrate it with the new development; the Cold War substation will remain intact and no excavation will be conducted underneath it; there will be an increase in public open spaces.

Gauci said that DB’s new application for excavation was filed as part of the reactivation and updating of the original project application. “It is not a ‘stand alone’ [application]. Clearly, the two make sense only when viewed and considered as one. Of equal importance, the extent of the proposed excavation will not change and it has already been the subject to a specific EIA and a traffic impact assessment in PA 3807/17.”

Gauci also hit back at claims that excavating under a building will destroy or endanger it.

“With this logic, no spaces such as car parks could have ever been created under buildings anywhere in the world. There are numerous examples in historic cities around the world where excavation was carried out under important historic buildings using the right techniques.

“DB has so far not actively engaged in public debates. The Group will however, expose publicly uttered falsehoods for what they are. We will not allow the truth to be buried. It is here and it requires no excavation.”

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