Sliema, Mriehel towers: ‘Dubai-fication of Malta must stop’ – Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil calls on Environment and Resources Authority to appeal controversial decision allowing development of 38-storey tower in Sliema

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) must appeal the Planning Authority’s decision approving the controversial development of a 38-storey tower in Sliema, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

Speaking during a brief radio interview on Radio 101, the PN leader argued that despite the ERA having said that it would not appeal the controversial high-rise projects in Mriehel and Sliema, it should reverse its position after new details emerged.

Busuttil’s remarks come in the wake of a report by the Sunday Times of Malta which reported that Victor Axiaq, the ERA chairman who was not present during the PA hearing approving the controversial developments, had described the environment impact assessment for the planned tower in Sliema as a “sham”.

The damning description of the environment impact assessment was contained in a memo sent to a member of the Planning Authority board and which was meant to be read out during the hearing – only for it to never see the light of day.

“Following the emergence of these new details, the ERA should follow in the footsteps of the Sliema local council and appeal the decision approving the Townsquare development so everyone could hear its views,” he said.

Axiaq did not attend the hearings due to illness – his absence being considered as critical since if he had voted against the development in Sliema, it could have swayed the result, especially now that his opinion on the environment impact assessment has emerged.

Busuttil – who once again refrained from expressly denouncing the proposed development in Sliema and Mriehel – said it was “interesting” that the developers behind both projects – Gasan – were the same. Similarly, Busuttil said it was a “coincidence” that the seven members which had voted in favour of the Sliema development were all appointed by the Muscat administration.

The other members sitting on the Board, including the Opposition’s representative Ryan Callus and represenatives of the Nationalist-led Sliema local council, all voted against, he said.

“The vote approving the Sliema development was very close as it was narrowly approved by seven votes in favour and six against. Coincidentally, the developers behind the Mriehel Towers and the Sliema towers are the same. The vote at the hearing was also interesting, as the only seven members who voted in favour of the Sliema tower were all appointed by Joseph Muscat,” Busuttil quipped.

The Opposition leader insisted that the granting of permits for the towers were a direct consequence of the government’s environmental policies, arguing that the MEPA demerger which had envisaged giving the environment a stronger voice in planning decision, had in fact “relegated” the environment.

“The Nationalist Party does not agree with the ‘Dubai-fication’ of Malta, with everything built up and profit the only god. This new direction is excessive and disproportionate.  This direction will forever change the face of Malta,” Busuttil warned.

The PN leader said people had to voice their displeasure at this direction at the next general election.

“The people must now ask themselves whether they agree with these policies, whether it agrees that Malta becomes the next Dubai,” he continued.

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