Environment Resource Authority chairman Victor Axiak is "not yet ready" to share his thoughts on the planned skyscrapers in Mrieħel and Sliema, given that the ERA has yet to decide whether to appeal the Planning Authority's decision to green light the developments.
Prof. Axiak, who sits on the Planning Authority board, was roundly criticised by civil society organisations for having missed the controversial hearings due to illness.
In a personal statement sent to the media, Prof. Axiak said he had submitted a request asking to nominate a proxy to the board when members could not attend "well before this matter erupted."
He said the PA board chairman, board secretary and Environment Minister had been informed of his inability to attend the meetings on August 2, the same day he was discharged from hospital with instructions to rest for at least two weeks.
Prof. Axiak defended his decision to hand the memo outlining his thoughts to a solitary board member, Timmy Gambin, saying he did this to avoid exerting "unjust and unfair" pressure on other PA board members.
"With hindsight, I do not expect others to share this view, but that is not my problem," Prof. Axiak wrote, adding that he had full faith in the integrity of all PA board members.
Dr Gambin chose not to read out Prof. Axiak's memo about the Sliema Townsquare project during proceedings.
"I had specifically asked this member to make use of my memo as the member may seem fit, during the discussion. Furthermore we agreed that this would not in any way condition the way such member would be voting," Prof. Axiak noted.
On August 4, the PA gave the green light to a 38-floor skyscraper in Sliema, and another four in Mrieħel.
'We are watching you' - CSN
In a reaction, the Civil Society Network urged Prof. Axiak to make his memo publish, arguing that all correspondence between himself, the ERA and the PA board should be published.
It argued that the PA's decision to approve skyscraper plans ran counter to existing policies and was made despite the absence of a masterplan on high-rise development.
"Civil society is closely watching ERA's actions and expects it to put the environment before other considerations," the network said.
Planning board knew
ERA chairman would be absent from controversial PA meeting
ERA chairman refuses to publicly state position on Sliema
skyscrapers • Confirms absence from controversial Planning
Authority meeting was due to surgery
A highly controversial meeting of the Planning
Authority which approved high rises in Sliema and Mriehel took place
despite the knowledge that Environment and Resources Authority
chairman Victor Axiak would be absent due to health reasons.
In a statement issued today in his personal
capacity, Axiak confirmed that he was admitted to hospital on July 30
to be operated the following day. He received specific instructions
not to attend to his normal duties for at least two weeks.
immediately informed [everyone] that I will be indisposed for the PA
board meetings of August 2 and 4,” Axiaq said, confirming that the
Envrionment Minister, the Planning Authority chairman and board
secretary had been made aware of his absence.
The Sliema project was approved by a majority
of just one vote.
Axiak was reacting to environmental
organisations which expressed "dismay" at the absence of
ERA from such an important meeting.
In a joint statement issued yesterday, Flimkien
Ghall-Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth and the Ramblers
Association said they would have asked for an adjournment of the
meeting had they known of Axiak's absence.
Axiak also said that he "was not yet
ready" to publish his opinion on the planned 38-storey tower in
Sliema, given that the ERA had yet to decide whether to appeal the
Planning Authority's decision to green light the development.
In a statement issued yesterday, Civil Society
Network called on ERA to publish all correspondence between its
chairman and the Planning Authority on the matter.
Axiak had sent a detailed memo on both the
Mriehel and the Sliema tower high-rise projects to board member
Timothy Gambin, telling him to use the email as he deemed fit during
the meeting. However, only Axiak’s views on the Mriehel towers
were read out.
Gambin, an expert in underwater archaeology,
voted for both projects during the public hearing. Contacted by
MaltaToday, he preferred not to explain why Axiak’s views on the
Sliema project were not relayed during the meeting.
"I specifically asked this member to make
use of the memo as he deems fit, during the discussion. We also
agreed that this would not in any way condition the way this member
would be voting,” Axiak said.
He explained that he sent it to just one board
member to as not “to place unjust and unfair pressure on such
hindsight, I do not expect others to share this view, but that is not
my problem. Furthermore, I have full respect and trust in the
integrity of all Board members including the one to whom I sent this
memo,” Axiak said.
Axiak told MaltaToday that after the meeting he
also sent a copy of this memo to ERA board and to Environment
Minister Jose Herrera.
"I thought that I owed them a full
explanation on what had happened as a result of the media coverage on
this matter,” he said.
Axiaq has refused to publish the memo in view
of ERA's pending decision on whether to appeal against the two
"I am not yet ready to publish the
contents of this memo since ERA still needs to decide whether to
appeal or not, against the PA's decision on these two high rise
In the part of the memo addressing the Mriehel
proposal, Axiak questioned the quality of the photomontages presented
by the developer especially the one depicting the view of Mriehel
from Mdina. The development was approved by ten votes against two.