We have recently been hit by another piece of surprising news, which once again goes against the construction industry. The DB city centre project in Pembroke has been suspended, in a surprise shock decision by the court which highlighted that one of the board members approving the project has a conflict of interest. Surprising, right?
This decision came following the wake of an appeal by three local councils, a number of non-governmental organisations and numerous residents being represented by lawyer Claire Bonello.
The Magistrate Justice Mark Chetcuti ruled that the decision to give the green light for this project should be rendered null. This turn of events has indeed raised a few eyebrows considering that Malta has been labelled as a country which favours developers and the construction industry.
To this project, there are two sides of the coin. There are those who argue in favour of it to keep up with the influx of foreigners coming in Malta and hence contribute to the local economy. On the other hand, there are those who would argue that such a project ruins the landscape of the locality and devoids it of any form of character.
The project was estimated to cost an approximate three hundred million Euro. It was set to consist of a thirty-seven-storey tower and a seventeen-storey hotel. The permit was approved amidst an insurmountable amount of four thousand and five hundred objections from residents, local councils, and non-governmental organisations and other parties.
Just to refresh your memory, this is the same project which included members from the Planning Authority board being flown to vote via a private jet. This project was approved by ten votes to four. One of the votes in favour was by a certain Matthew Pace who is an entrepreneur with a local leading real estate agency, who was on the look-out for buyers for this project.
One of the court’s main arguments was that the project was being advertised way before it was approved. In this respect, property agents who would sell receive commission. Matthew Pace was in a position to receive money if the project moved forward. This means that there is a clear and direct conflict of interest.
It is therefore highlighted that Matthew Pace should have abstained from voting due to the direct conflict of interest. The court also expressed its surprise, due to the fact that the planning tribunal had dismissed claims relating to conflict of interest.
With that said, one may argue that the vote would still be in favour of the project even without Matthew Pace’s input. The Court deemed this as irrelevant.
This puts the residents in a position of power where the DB Group is side tracked with a few steps back. Only time will tell how this situation will unfold.