DB accuses NGOs of doing competitors' bidding, as they seek retrial of ITS project objection

DB Group said that the sole aim of the objectors, which they said are driven by competitors, is to inflict as much commercial damage as possible  • Graffitti says it has a moral obligation to object to DB's 'obscenity'

DB Group is developing the former ITS site into a hotel, retail and residential complex
DB Group is developing the former ITS site into a hotel, retail and residential complex

Updated at 12:40 with Wayne Flask's reaction

DB Group accused NGOs of doing the bidding for their competitors by seeking the retrial of their objection to its St George’s Bay project, and of remaining silent on neighbouring projects.

The Group was reacting to the news that the objectors, which include several environmental NGOs, and the local councils of Pembroke and Swieqi are seeking a retrial of the verdict by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti that gave the go-ahead for the development of the former Institute of Tourism Studies site into a hotel, retail and residential complex.

DB Group said that certain people still refuse to accept the verdict and that they are, “now effectively defying the judgement and have instituted fresh court litigation based on spurious, non-existent, and vexatious grounds.”

It said it has “absolutely no doubt” that the Courts will “resoundingly defeat this bizarre litigation as well.”

“The judgement concluded a decade of thorough scrutiny of the project by public authorities, the media, tribunals and the Court of Appeal,” DB said.

Last May, the Chief Justice handed down two decisions ending a years-long battle by NGOs and residents to stop the development from moving forward.

The appeals, the first by residents and NGOs, including Moviment Graffitti, Din L-Art Helwa and Friends of the Earth Malta, against DB, the ERA and the PA , the second by the Pembroke St. Julians and Swieqi Local Councils, as well as the aforementioned NGOs and residents, had been filed filed after their objections were rejected by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal in December 2021.

Proposed in 2017, the plans for the site include the construction of 386 room 5-star hotel rooms in a 12-storey hotel, as well as 179 residences housed in two towers, 17 and 18 storeys high. The plans also included office space, a shopping mall, restaurants and a car park.

The Group accused those who filed the case of seeking to inflict as much commercial harm on the project as possible.

It said that they [the objectors] are aware that the law does not allow them to stop the works and that the project will be completed “because that’s the law, the rule of law.”

“Opposition to the project was for the most part covertly driven by competitors who fear our Group’s ability to make a success of all its investments. Indeed, we had accepted all the reasonable suggested changes. All of them. We listened and we acted,” the Group said.

The Group said on Saturday that it is “blindingly obvious” that the “nefarious plot” of the objectors was to stop the project at all costs.

DB Group also accused them of remaining “eerily silent” on other neighbouring projects that it said were built on land bought or leased at a cheaper price.

“Again, simple. Because that’s what was in the interest of our Group’s competitors.”

It also said that it is also exploring ways to seek damages.

Moviment Graffitti says it has a moral obligation to object to DB's 'obscenity'

In reaction, Moviment Graffiti said that NGOs have been working closely with Pembroke, St. Julian’s and Swieqi residents for the past six years to stop "db's monstrosity" on public land, which it said is, "land for which they paid peanuts and from which they will rake in hundreds of millions from the sale of real estate."

It said that with the latest court case, the objectors are using the regular legal channels provided by law and maintaining, as their moral obligation, their commitment to the residents – as well as to the public who enthusiastically participated in crowdfunding campaigns - to use all legitimate means to stop db’s shameless greed.

"There’s a lot at stake here. db wants to build two 19- and 18-storey towers and a 13-storey hotel, on public land in Pembroke, in a residential area and with disastrous impacts on important historical sites and areas of great natural sensitivity," Graffitti said.

It said that the organising by the communities against the project is something that gave a lot of courage to NGOs and to all people around Malta and Gozo.

"Sustained malicious allegations and attacks by the developers destroying our country and by those pigging out at the people’s expense will not intimidate us into limiting our actions to fight them, including the use of legal actions," the NGO said.

Activist Wayne Flask ridicules accusations

On Facebook, activist Wayne Flask ridiculed the db Group’s accusations and mentioned the objections the same activists made against developments like that of Joseph Portelli’s Mercury Towers, Villa Rosa and Hili’s Comino bungalows.

He questioned who the activists were colluding with since all the main developers faced similar objections and used the same ‘agent’ to lead their media campaign.

“dB should state who their enemies are, when throwing such accusations, like the others do,” Flask said.

He questioned what had happened to MDA boss Michael Stivala’s allegations that NGOs were in the pocket of certain developers.

“When will the truth come out? The silence on this inquiry is starting to become suspicious.”