Updated | Record number of objections to DB Group’s ITS site excavation

Over 6,000 objections have been submitted after an appeal by NGOs and residents

Over 6,000 objections have been submitted to the DB Group’s application for the excavation of the former ITS site.

In a joint statement on Thursday, ten NGOs and three Local Council's said the record number of objections needed to be added to the 4,500 objections to the City Centre project submitted before permit was granted.

The NGOs noted that the original project for the entire project also included the excavation part, which had been struck down by the court earlier this year.

Back in July, a number of NGOs, local councils and residents condemned the standalone application submitted for the excavation of the site as an attempt to evade a holistic evaluation of the full impact of the development since the application was separate to the one already submitted two years ago.

Despite this, the application was still submitted in relation to the same project, the NGOs said.

“This application for large scale excavation had been processed within a week, with no indication of what is to become of the excavation waste. The proposed excavation of the site also extends below the Grade 2 Scheduled building and the Cold War bunker, whilst still stating that these buildings were to somehow be retained,” the NGOs said.

They added that the excavation could also endanger the Ħarq Ħamiem cave and its surroundings, an area of natural, geological and scientific importance.

“The sheer number of objections continues to show the widespread opposition to this project, which has attracted criticism from all quarters,” the NGOs said.

Furthermore, they pointed out that back in July, all of Malta and Gozo’s local councils had declared themselves against the project when a motion put forward in the Local Councils Association, declaring that the project would harm the quality of life of thousands of residents, was unanimously approved.

“Residents, local councils and organisations will continue with their efforts to stop the DB’s monument to greed; a project which shows total disrespect towards residents and the environment, benefitting only those who will be raking in millions from land speculation.

The statement was signed by:

Pembroke, St Julian’s and Swieqi local councils, Archaeological Society of Malta, Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Isles of the Left, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta and Ramblers Association.

NGOs and residents are lying – DB Group

In a statement published later in the day, the DB Group said NGOs had claimed that there were 10,500 objections to the proposed project.

“This is an outright lie, confirmed by the public information available on the Planning Authority’s own website. The number of total objections amounts to around a third of the figure quoted,” DB Group CEO Arthur Gauci said.

In their statement, NGOs and local councils noted that the 6,000 objections submitted in relation to the proposed excavation works followed the 4,500 objections already submitted to the project.

“Over 6,000 objections to the DB Group’s application for the excavation of the former ITS site (PA/05533/19) have been submitted to the Planning Authority, an all-time record. This adds to the over 4,500 objections that had been submitted to the DB Group’s application for the City Centre project on the former ITS site (PA/03807/17),” read the NGOs’ statement.  

The DB Group went on to say that the number of objections submitted was “comparable to most such projects”. “This is not a question of opinion but of fact, which cannot be denied or spinned out of existence,” the company said.

According to the Planning Authority website, 3,706 objections were submitted to the project by Tuesday. By comparison there were 304 objections to the controversial Townsquare project, and 144 objections to the development of the former Jerma Palace hotel. 

There were 17 objections to plans for the development of Manoel Island, however close to 8,500 people did sign a petition calling on the government to intervene and stop plans for the development of Manoel Island. 

Furthermore, the DB Group said it had “no difficulty in declaring that a number of objections were submitted by the same individuals using different email addresses”.

“Our Group deplores what is clearly a sustained and motivated campaign against our €300 project, the largest ever private investment by a single individual in the history of this country,” the company said. “It is truly regrettable that the local media reproduce such lies without the decency of checking the facts.”

The company insisted that since the project was launched, it had “rigorously followed all the applicable laws and procedures of every institution involved”.

“We shall continue to do so with rectitude, openness and determination,” it added.   

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