PN MP says government is ‘catalyst for enabling abuse’, slams ITS site project

In Parliament this morning, Nationalist MP Marthese Portelli critised the proposed ITS development and called for Labour officials to stand up against overdevelopment

Nationalist MP Marthese Portelli said that the price for the ITS site was too low for the public
Nationalist MP Marthese Portelli said that the price for the ITS site was too low for the public

The government has a duty and responsibility to protect public land – and not to be the “catalyst which enables abuse”, Nationalist MP and planning spokesperson Marthese Portelli said.

“Public land does not belong to the government, or to a minister. But it has been entrusted to them in order to administer it properly,” Portelli said.

Speaking in Parliament during a debate on the Planning Authority, Portelli slammed the high-rise development project proposed for the ITS site in Pembroke.

The PA does not listen to residents, she said, and breaks the law when it gives away public land. “It is not my opinion but the law,” she said. “We have issued with tendering, planning policy, infrastructure, and this government chooses to keep going.”

The project – proposed over 35,000 square metres – will include a hotel, shopping mall, residences and restaurants among other facilities. The leasing of the ITS land deal was not subject to public tendering rules and instead reached by a hybrid mechanism called a Request For Tender Proposals – which is generic and not subject to tender rules. It is expected to generate 7,000 daily additional car trips.

Read more: Pembroke up in arms as residents march to protest DB group hotel development

Portelli remarked that no Labour members were present in the house, saying that nobody was present to listen to the criticism.

The ITS land was being given away for an unacceptably low price, and that the PA is complicit in wrongdoing, she said.

“I know that there are ministers who are uncomfortable with this situation,” she said, calling for cabinet members to intervene to try and curb overdevelopment. “Stand up even if you stand alone,” Portelli told them.

Planning funds

Infrastructure minister Ian Borg said that the Planning Authority financed 16 projects for local councils, valued at 1.9 million.

Borg confirmed that over €27.8 million euro was available at the disposition of local councils – particularly as Sliema, St. Julians, and Valletta had the biggest portion.

Earlier this month, this newspaper revealed that local councils were yet to claim over €28 million in planning gain funds, as over €31 million in funds have been assigned by the PA to local councils to be used for community development projects.

Read more: Councils yet to claim over €28 million in planning gain funds

A list tabled in the House of Representatives highlighted the main areas in which the biggest development projects are planned, namely St Julian’s and Sliema which each showed uncommitted balances of €4 million each.


The government needs to be careful, as due to the economic prosperity, “everyone wants to invest,” Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government and Communities Silvio Parnis said, adding that a balance needs to be found.

“The environment needs to be prioritised, and the government is working towards this.”

Parnis pointed out that irregularities do take place, specifying that 192 illegalities or abuses in development zones were recorded.

“The people responsible had to pay for these mistakes. But with the millions collected from these illegalities, the government gave it back to the people.”

Johann Buttigieg

Nationalist MP Mario Galea remarked on a comment by Borg, who said that PA chairman Johann Buttigieg will not be leaving his post. “Of course he wouldn’t move with such a financial package,” Galea said.

“Although Borg said that he wouldn’t be moving, he did not deny that he had a financial package of €100,00.”

Read more: PA boss Johann Buttigieg will remain in his current post, Minister says

Galea said that the environment is the last thing on the government’s priorities, and that “nobody believes the PA is autonomous from the government.”

“The first thing the Labour government did was take Buttigieg, and with a high jump, give him €100,000.”

Read more: Planning Authority boss Johann Buttigieg now paid over €83,000