12 northern councils unite against DB hotel project and Saqqajja developments

Councils call for rejection of DB’s excavation permit and for protection of Saqqajja townhouses from hotel development

Protestors from the Swieqi, St Julian's and Pembroke communities on the site of the former ITS
Protestors from the Swieqi, St Julian's and Pembroke communities on the site of the former ITS

In a sign of growing solidarity between local councils facing different development threats, the 12 councils from Malta’s northern region have united to call for a rejection of an application to excavate the former Institute for Tourism Studies site by the DB group and for legal protection to a row of townhouses in Saqqajja in Rabat threatened by a hotel application.

The region includes councils with both Labour and Nationalist majorities.

The growing opposition to DB’s City Centre project by Labour-led localities is highly significant considering that the land in question was transferred to the DB group by the central government.

In a motion approved by its members, the northern region described the DB project’s 38-storey tower and 17-storey hotel as “one which will harm thousands of families” and called on the Planning Authority to give a vote to all three councils impacted by the project, namely St Julian’s, Pembroke and Swieqi.

When approving the original application, later revoked by the law courts, only the Pembroke council was represented on the Planning Authority board. If all three councils are granted the vote, the likelihood of the project being rejected would increase. But this may require a change in the law, which specifically refers to one member representing local councils – even in cases where the project lies in more than one locality.

The councils questioned the presentation of a separate application to excavate the site by the DB group, as this would prejudice the PA’s final decision on the project, noting that “if the permit for excavation is granted, certainly this will not be for a useless hole.”

The councils also questioned the logic of approving the project in the absence of road infrastructure or any obligation on the developers to financially contribute for it.

The councils denounced the absence of a masterplan for Paceville before the consideration of individual projects, warning that this will “result in the suicide of neighbouring localities.”

The motion echoed similar concerns expressed by the Association of Local Councils, presided by Labour councillor Mario Fava, back in July.

The northern region also approved a motion supporting the Rabat council’s demand on the Planning Authority to grant legal protection to seven townhouses in Saqqajja threatened by a proposed hotel development. The proposal would entail the addition of two storeys overlooking the square and four on the avenue side. The proposed scheduling would pose a considerable obstacle to the approval of the project.

The northern region presided by Anton Mifsud includes the Mdina, Dingli, Gharghur, Mellieha, Mgarr, Naxxar, Mosta, Rabat, Pembroke, Swieqi, St Paul’s Bay and Imtarfa.

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