An application for the excavation of the site of the former Institute of Tourism Studies has been withdrawn by the db Group, which now plans to submit a single application for excavation works and the building of its mixed-use development.  

The controversial proposal, which was filed separately from that for the building  of the 31-storey complex that was planned for the site, was withdrawn on May 19. 

In a Facebook post, db Group said the project had been scaled down by 50,000 square metres.

Pembroke mayor Dean Hili told Times of Malta that the local council had met the developer and was told that plans would be consolidated into a single application in light of criticism that the splitting of the two applications had created obstacles for people to object to the development in its entirety. The council was also told that plans for the development of the site had shifted substantially.

“While the nitty gritty of objections have been incorporated into the new plans, we all know what the sentiment of the people has been regarding this project and we continue to object to the spirit of the development,” Hili said. 

“The process for the development started in a very selfish manner and if it must go ahead then we at the very least want to make sure that it is not to the detriment of people.” 

The Local Councils’ Association, who had presented a four-page motion opposing the development, said that the move to split the applications was a ‘tactic’ by the developer that did not allow for the objection to the project in its entirety and would allow “one thing to lead to another”. 

“If a permit for the excavation of the site is issued, we will certainly not be left with an enormous hole in the ground with no use.” 

The most recent plans for the development included a 20-metre reduction in the proposed tower, which will still cast a shadow over residential homes in the area. 

The development has been staunchly opposed by residents and NGOs as well as the Pembroke Local Council. 

It had racked up close to 5,000 objections on its first application, for a then 38-storey tower, which was approved by the Planning Authority in 2018. 

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti later nullified the permit after finding that one of the board members who voted in favour was involved in a real estate agent branch that was actively seeking investors and buyers for the project. 

Controversy also arose when it came to light that the PA had spent €8,750 on a private jet to fly in a board member to and from a family holiday in Sicily in order to attend the meeting. She subsequently also voted in favour of the project. 

In a report, the National Audit Office also raised doubts over the regularity of the proposal for the land transfer of the project and had concerns over transparency of information disclosed in the request for proposals. 

The db Group welcomed the publication of the report, saying it put an end to “various unfounded and at times malicious allegations against the group regarding the price it paid for the concession of the land in question.”

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