DB ITS project will go ahead as judge rules against local councils, NGOs

Last Updated on Thursday, 1 June, 2023 at 11:59 am by Andre Camilleri

The massive DB project on the ex-ITS site will go ahead as approved by the Planning Authority after a judge ruled against local councils and NGOs that filed court actions against the development.

The decision, given by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti, means a Planning Authority permit granted to the DB Group project stands.

DB Group now have the legal go-ahead to excavate the site and develop three towers, rising 17, 16 and 12 floors respectively. The project will include high-end apartments, retail and commercial space and a hotel.

The original plans were for a 37-storey tower and 17-storey hotel.

The appeals, the first by residents and NGOs, including Moviment Graffitti, Din L-Art Helwa and Friends of the Earth Malta, against DB, the ERA and the PA , the second by the Pembroke St. Julian’s and Swieqi Local Councils, as well as the aforementioned NGOs and residets, had been filed filed after their objections were rejected by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal in December 2021.

Proposed in 2017, the plans for the site include the construction of a 386 room 5-star hotel rooms in a 12-storey hotel, as well as 179 residences housed in two towers, 17 and 18 storeys high. The plans also included office space, a shopping mall, restaurants and a car park.

The judgment states that the NGOs were correct in claiming that the EPRT tribunal was wrong to take the Hotel Height Limitation Adjustment Policy and FAR policy as a “subject plan,” that supersedes the applicable local plan, because the wording of both documents indicated that one was a policy and the other a policy guideline.

However the judge went on to note that the NGO’s argument had not been about this, but about whether the ITS project had failed to follow the stipulations of the local plan itself. “These are not legal issues, but planning issues, which the Tribunal has addressed. Therefore this court cannot and should not address issues which extend beyond its legal powers.”

In a statement, the DB group welcomed the court judgment.

“DB Group welcomes today’s court verdict which brings an end to eight years of scrutiny by various courts, tribunals and authorities. This has been one of the most scrutinised projects in local history, and the truth has finally prevailed. We now look forward to delivering this world-class project,” the company said.

Moviment Graffitti said it was disappointed with the rejection and is considering other legal actions to stop the project from going forward.

“The responsibility of the obscene development, which wants to bury the residents of Pembroke under two towers of 17 and 18 floors, and a hotel of 12 floors, falls on the Government, which gave land of people to Silvio Debono, his authorities and planning policies.”

Lawyer Claire Bonello appeared for the appellants. Lawyers Ian Stafrace and Stefano Filletti represented DB group.

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