Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sliema council's Townsquare appeal to focus on PA's 'flawed procedures'

Philip Leone Ganado - Times of Malta, 19 August 2016
The Sliema local council’s appeal against the controversial Townsquare development will be based on “flawed procedures” and the failure of the Planning Authority to adhere to legal requirements.
In a meeting on Wednesday, the council unanimously agreed to appeal the PA’s decision to grant a permit for the 38-storey development, which has been vociferously opposed by residents and environmental groups.
The council is made up of seven Nationalist Party representatives, three from the Labour Party and one representing Alternattiva Demokratika.
AD councillor Michael Briguglio, who spearheaded the call for the council to appeal, told the Times of Malta: “The appeal is purely a legal matter. We will focus on areas where, according to our legal advice, the PA did not conform with the law and did not follow procedure.”
Appeals against the decision can be filed up to 30 days after the decision notice is published in the Government Gazette, which is expected by the end of August.
The council is currently meeting its lawyers to formulate the grounds for the appeal. Discussions are also ongoing with heritage NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa over the possibility of a joint appeal.
The Townsquare project, proposed by the Gasan Group, was narrowly approved by the PA board earlier this month by seven votes to six, a few hours after the approval of an equally controversial development of four interlinked high-rise buildings in Mrieħel.
Environmental organisations have said they would continue to seek all legal avenues to halt the “tidal wave of towers”.
It is still not known whether the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) will submit an appeal, as it is empowered to do by law following the split from the PA.
The authority initially said it “did not envisage appealing” days after the decision was taken, but it since appears to have backed down from that stance, with chairman Victor Axiak stating this week that he would be meeting with lawyers and experts before coming to a decision.
The Sunday Times of Malta reported that Prof. Axiak had expressed reservations about the controversial high-rise project in a memo to fellow PA board member Timmy Gambin. The memo, which was not referenced or read out during the hearing on the Townsquare project, had described the environmental impact assessment for the project as a “sham”.
Prof. Axiak was absent from the PA board meeting due to illness, leaving the ERA with no real say or vote during proceedings.

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