DB boss takes on NGO claims on City Centre

DB boss takes on NGO claims on City Centre


The CEO of the DB Group, developers of the City Centre hotel and high-rise project in St George’s Bay, is contesting claims by NGOs objecting to the development that the demolition of part of the barracks had already started without any regulatory supervision before being halted by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage (SCH).

Arthur Gauci said a portion of the barracks was demolished in line with the approved permit at that time, in line with approved SCH’s terms of reference and method statements from project architects.

Gauci said the portion in question was not part of the Grade 2 scheduled area and only an accretion and that works commenced with a formal clearance from the SCH and under supervision of an archeological monitor.

Gauci said the visual integrity of St George’s Barracks had already been compromised considerably by the accretions to fit the former Institute of Tourism Studies. The SCH had already issued a permit to dismantle and rebuild the barracks. Notwithstanding this permit, we decided to retain and fully restore them. Excavation plans under the building were also scrapped.

Gauci also contested claims by the NGOs that the SCH issued a stop-notice related to Harq Hamiem cave or the barracks. “The stop notice related to the opening of a number of trial pits for the purpose of geological and geotechnical investigation. In fact, the SCH duly declared that it had no objection to further on-site works to proceed.”

Gauci said detailed studies and conclusions by the geologists and geotechnical engineers Peter Gatt and architect Adrian Mifsud say the project poses no threat because 24m of rock separate it from it. Gauci said only 0.5% of the project buildings overlap the cave and no excavation works will be conducted without the necessary archeological and geotechnical monitoring.

Gauci contested claims that the DB development will have a deleterious effect upon the residential amenity of residences, saying the maximum daily increase in shade on Pembroke will be 90 minutes during some weeks in December and on only some residences.

“In June, for instance, the shading increases by only 30 minutes a day, and again impacting only some residences. A detailed technical sun path study covering all seasons and this is publicly available on the PA stream.”

Gauci said the DB project is in line with the 2006 Local Plan, the Height Limitation Adjustment Policy for Hotels as well as the FAR Policy, both approved in 2014.

“The objectors do not seem to understand the concept of ‘Tall Buildings’ as defined in the latter policy. Furthermore, no part of the site is within or adjacent to Pembroke Natura 2000 site. Above all, a PA permit is issued or withheld according to law, not opinions. That’s what the cardinal principle of rule of law dictates.”

Gauci also contested claims that the SCH objected to a proposed pool. “The SCH found the pool proposal acceptable.”

Gauci said DB will retain an underground Cold War bunker in its totality, preserved and made accessible from the public open space.

He said two independent character appraisals were carried out as part of a comprehensive EIA, together with a detailed assessment by Prof. Conrad Thake to assess the barracks buildings. A detailed Military Barracks Heritage Report was also carried out by the project architects.

Gauci insisted that a publicly-funded tunnel would serve all the residents, businesses and visitors to the area. “The NGOs are completely twisting facts when they claim that the Planning Authority held the DB Group liable for damages for putting the project on the market. In fact we were the ones who first filed a judicial letter holding the PA responsible for damages sustained as a result of Court of Appeal ruling in July 2019). The Planning Authority subsequently filed a reply to this judicial letter as one would expect in such circumstances in order to rebut our claim for damages.”

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