The developers behind the controversial db Group City Centre project in Pembroke cannot appeal the court decision that has halted the development, according to lawyers representing the objectors.

Wednesday's decision was described as “huge” by lawyer Claire Bonello, who was acting on behalf of three councils, a number of NGOs and residents of the area.

The court ruled that a member of the PA board had a conflict of interest when he was called to decide whether to award a permit for the project.

The appellants’ legal team, which included Ian Vella Galea and Malcolm Mifsud, told Times of Malta the ruling meant the developers would have to resubmit their development proposals.

Asked if this judgment could be used to challenge other decisions, they said it created a good precedent for similar cases.

The €300 million project – which includes a 37-storey tower and 17-storey hotel – had been approved by the PA by 10 votes to four, despite the board having received an unprecedented 4,500 objections.

One of the 10 votes cast in favour was by Matthew Pace, a board member and entrepreneur who was later revealed by The Shift News as being involved with a branch of one of the real estate agencies seeking investors and buyers for the project.

Mr Pace is a franchise owner of Remax Alliance Swieqi, which shared a database and website with Remax Malta.

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti said the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal’s decision in February granting the go-ahead should be revoked and that the Planning Authority’s September approval of the plans was to be “deemed null and without effect”.

An artist’s impression of the db project in Pembroke.An artist’s impression of the db project in Pembroke.

In 2016, Labour MP and Planning Authority board member Joseph Sammut had recused himself from a hearing on the revocation of fish farm permits, saying he had represented interests in the sector.

Planning Authority board member was ‘objectively biased’

In the db case, Dr Bonello said residents had finally been “vindicated” for not giving up.

A spokesman for db Group declined to comment, saying the company had nothing to say at this early stage.

When contacted, the Planning Authority said it was studying the court’s decision.

Questions about whether it had conflict-of-interest guidelines for its board members or whether it had any intention of introducing such guidelines following the decision remained unanswered by the time this newspaper went to print.

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