Six environmental NGOs have called on the Planning Authority to explain why their representative on the board was advised to recuse herself for the hearing on the controversial db Group project in Pembroke.
The €250 million project was approved on Thursday with four votes in favour and three against despite unprecedented opposition from councils, residents and environmental groups.
It will see the construction of a 12-storey hotel and two 17- and 18-storey residential towers on the former ITS site.
The decision was taken by seven of the board's members, after five other members decided to recuse themselves due to a possible conflict since they were present when the project was first approved in 2018.
PA chairman Vince Cassar, Environmental Resources Authority chairman Victor Asciak, Joseph Brincat and NGO representative Annick Bonello sent a note to the board saying that although they believed they could decide on the matter, they had decided to withdraw from the hearing anyway.
Lawyer Chris Cilia recused himself over a potential professional conflict.
In their statement on Friday, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Moviment Graffitti, Ramblers Association of Malta, Rota, Birdlife and Nature Trust said that their representative, Bonello, was advised to recuse herself by the PA at the last moment following the outcome of the project’s appeal a couple of years ago.
They asked the authority to clarify its stand and explain clearly to the public why such advice was given at the last minute without giving their representative any chance to seek legal advice.
The eNGOs said that according to the Development Planning Act, there are no clear provisions for the representatives to be substituted in case he or she cannot attend a hearing because of recusal or other matters.
Following the hearing, the Nationalist Party had called for the resignation of the members who opted to recuse themselves.
It said that although it agreed that any conflict of interest should be declared, the fact that five board members only declared this just before the meeting was condemnable.
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