Last Updated on Thursday, 24 June, 2021 at 9:27 am by Andre Camilleri
A number of organisations have so far collected around €18,000 in a crowdfunding campaign launched for legal action against the db Group project in Pembroke.
11 NGOs had launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance appeals against the project. The aim is to oppose a decision made by the Planning Authority (PA) to build two 18-storey towers and a 12-storey hotel at the Pembroke site that was previously occupied by the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS). The 11 organisations are ACT Malta, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers Association of Malta, Rota, Sustainable Built Environment Malta and the Archaeological Society of Malta.
Speaking with the Malta Independent, Moviment Graffiti activist Andre Callus said that “legal proceedings against the project are already underway because an appeal was filed against an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), prior to the Planning Authority’s approval of the whole project. We will now obviously ensure that the PA decision is appealed as well. These are the first steps we plan on taking before potentially taking others,” Callus said.
He remarked that this project is situated in a residential area, and “negatively impacts important historical sites and areas of great natural sensitivity.”
Activist Callus explained that the PA had initially approved the ITS db Group project back in 2018. A similar crowdfunding campaign to the one that is currently under way was also launched back then. It saw a strong public response as many donated to support the organisations fighting multiple legal battles that ultimately led to the revocation of the 2018 permit, after a court declared that one of the board members at the time had a conflict of interest. As such the application had to be reconsidered from scratch. The db Group had then changed its proposal, going for two smaller towers instead of one 31-storey tower. The plans had also reduced the height of the proposed hotel from 17 floors to 12.
The board of the Environment and Resources Authority had unanimously approved the Final Assessment for the proposed db Group’s City Centre project in May. This was done “in accordance with all the mitigation measures present within the Environment Impact Assessment and conditions recommended,” according to an ERA statement. An appeal against this was filed, with eight organisations and several Pembroke residents arguing that they “will not stand by and let ERA rubber stamp a deeply flawed, unsubstantiated and incomplete assessment.” The appeal is ongoing.
On 10 June, the Planning Authority Board then approved the db Group’s project by four votes to three after five other members of the board recused themselves from the vote.
“Our plan is to fight legal battles once again and ultimately see the 2021 permit revoked as well,” Callus said.
Thousands of residents and objectors, three local councils and many organisations have come out against this project, Callus said.
“We cannot let big business and public authorities run roughshod over the people’s will to protect the environment and quality of life,” Moviment Graffiti said.
“We now need to start the whole legal process again. Since there is a lot at stake due to the monstrosity and absurdity of the project, we intend and are determined to fight again. We were only able to do this with the support of the public. Therefore, we asked the people to contribute to another crowdfunding campaign and give us the opportunity to take legal action,” Callus said.
“As soon as the campaign was launched, we received an immediate response, raising thousand of euros in a few hours. In fact, in just three days the crowdfunding passed the €14,000 mark and now stands at around €18,000 but people are still contributing.”
“The contributions that people made to the campaign came as a great surprise because we thought that after three years of hearing about this project, people would have lost interest. This was not the case as many expressed their anger, irritation and frustration with the approval of such a project,” Callus said.
Legal action against such a massive project entail significant legal and professional fees that can only be sustained with the public’s contributions, he said. “With the funds we currently have, we have the possibility to take legal action but the more we have, the more we can do to fight against this project,” Callus said.