Pembroke residents rally against ITS-site development

Over a hundred people turned up to a public meeting on the proposed development during which residents expressed a sense of hopelessness as well as anger at the Planning Authority and the country's politicians 

Residents were told that the proposed development would permanently change the face of their locality and impact their health and quality of life
Residents were told that the proposed development would permanently change the face of their locality and impact their health and quality of life

Residents who attended a public meeting on the proposed development of a hotel and luxury residences on the site of the Institute of Tourism Studies in St Julian's, expressed their anger at both the Planning Authority, politicians and businesses, over a development they said would permanently change the face of the locality.

The development, which is set over a footprint of 35,000-square metres, will include a hotel, shopping mall, residences, restaurants, night clubs as well as other facilities.

The meeting was organised by Pembroke residents, helped by members of Moviment Graffitti. Also in attendance were representatives of all four political parties, as well as members of Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Zminijietna, and others.

The event's organisers stressed that while the land had been transferred to the DB group, the permit has not yet been issues, and that while people might have felt that all was lost, if enough people got together they could make a difference.

Pembroke resident Adrian Agius gave a brief presentation, outlining the project's main points. He explained that the development would include a Going though photos and plans of the proposed development, Agius said that given the project's height, homes adjacent to the development would effectively be placed underground.

Approval will not require public hearing

Residents were told that the Environment and Resources Agency had informed the organisers that "the proposal was subject a grade 2 process" and would not require there to be a public hearing before it was approved.

Moreover, Agius said the construction was estimated to require four years of construction and would generate over 334,000 tonnes of waste - roughly a quarter of the total waste generated nationally in 2015. 

Given that the project was of a very large scale, and in order to avoid having to transport concrete to the site of the development, Agius said the developers were also planning to construct an on-site concrete batching plant. Such a plant, even though temporary, would generate a great deal of fine dust and would negatively impact people's health, residents were told.

One resident emphasised that cement was a very fine powder and pointed to different areas around the island where batching plants were located, to illustrate the effects of such plants on the surrounding.

Shadows from the development were also a cause of concern, with Agius explaining that in December, for example, a large chunk of the locality would have shadow cast over it.

"These things are so obvious to us that practically all comments are superfluous," said Agius.

Traffic already a major concern

Inevitably the discussion turned to the amount of traffic the development would generate. When one factored in the development's guests and employees the area would see an estimated 8,000 additional trips a day.

"There are only three exists from Prembroke, how are we expected to leave," said one resident. 

"The main road will become like regional road," said another.

While it had been suggested that a tunnel might be constructed to alleviate the pressure on the area’s roads, one resident, who identified himself as an urban planner, explained that a tunnel would not be enough, and such a development would require a network of flyovers.

All through out, residents questioned how public land had been given to private individuals, when it would not be benefiting the people.

They also expressed their frustration at the large number of projects popping up in and around Pembroke. 

In addition, to the Villa Rosa and Mercury House developments which have already been approved, White Rocks, Chiswick school and the Corinthia projects were still in the pipeline.

One resident asked whether according to planning policy, high-rises could be constructed in Pembroke. While the application states that the development was in St Julian's, half of its footprint was within Pembroke.

Other concerns raised by those in attendance were issues related to drainage in the area, the possibility of another tower being constructed in the area currently designated as a car park, as well as the impact the development would have on an underwater cave system and a former British-era barracks in the area.

One woman also asked whether the developers would be insuring people’s homes against any damage that could be caused during construction, and whether people would be compensated for lost revenue from solar panels that would generate less electricity during the summer months.

Councils to discuss way forward

St Julian’s mayor Guido Dalli and Pembroke mayor Dean Hili were both present for the public meeting and agreed to meet over the coming weeks to discuss a way forward in opposing different aspects of the project.

One resident also suggested looking into the possibility of court proceedings to stop, or at least delay the project. The organisers of the debate pointed out that while this was being looked into, planning policy over the years had been designed to favour developers and not the people, meaning that there might not be legal case against the development.

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