The controversial City Centre project by db Group has been approved by the Planning Authority with a one-vote majority, despite widespread opposition.
The meeting was approved by four votes to three after five other members of the board recused themselves from the vote.
Pembroke deputy mayor Omar Arab voted against the project due to the massive nature of the development. Board member and economist Gilmour Camillieri and Omar Vella also voted against, due to the environmental impact and the vague nature of commitments on a tunnel connecting the project to the St Andrew’s road.
All participants in the meeting including two other local councils and a number of NGOs, save for the project’s consultants, urged the board to reject the massive project.
Activist Andre Callus from Moviment Graffitti, environmental lawyer Claire Bonello, St. Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg, and Nationalist MP David Thake were amongst those fielding objections to the project.
Callus described the project as a “monster” which would “ruin resident’s lives”, saying that the PA should close down if it ignores all the objections against the project.
Only the developers’ consultants spoke in favour of the project. “Our vision was for a landmark building which makes a statement in the area,” project architect and former PN Minister Jesmond Mugliett said.
The architects said that there had been improvements on the previous plans which were approved three years and that residents’ concerns had been taken into account when a proposed nightclub and casino had been removed from the plans, and when the building heights were reduced.
PA chairman Vince Cassar, ERA chairman, Victor Axiak, NGO representative Annick Bonello, and Joseph Brincat all said that while they believed that they could decide on the matter, they had decided to withdraw from the hearing.
Another board member, Chris Cilia, recused himself over a potential professional conflict of interest.
The board is usually made up of 11 people, including the chair, but not including a representative of the local council concerned; meaning that the quorum requirement of seven people was reached through the attendance of a representative from the Pembroke local council.
The meeting was chaired by Martin Camilleri.
The db Group had changed its ITS site proposal, which now comprises of two 17-storey towers and a hotel, instead of one 31-storey tower and a hotel. The plans also reduced the height of the proposed hotel from 17 floors to 12. It is recommended for approval.
The project has courted controversy, with environmental NGOs and the local councils of surrounding localities opposing it. Some 17,000 objections were filed with the Planning Authority.