db Group denies excavations on bunker’s site; says Graffitti statements ‘absolutely untrue’

Miguela Xuereb

DB Group is denying that a bunker on the site of their contested project, will be excavated.

A spokesperson explained that it was ‘absolutely untrue’ that a Cold War bunker on the site was scheduled for demolition, instead explaining that, ‘No works will be carried out on the bunker until the Superintendence expresses its views.’

Newsbook.com.mt had attempted to obtain these statements from the spokesperson directly but were instead told to obtain their responses from fellow Maltese media outlets.

Rockcutters in action

The news comes to light after an image appeared on the Moviment Graffitti Facebook Page alleging that works were commencing on DB Group’s ITS site.

In the post, the group states that, ‘Rockcutters went into action on the site of the scheduled St George’s Barracks despite there being no final Court decision on the matter, and pleas to save the underground Cold War Bunker.’

1930s engine room omitted from DB Group assessment report

Lawsuits filed over db Group planning tribunal and permit

The explain that a number of NGOs had submitted plans regarding the existence of an underground Cold War Bunker, something they say was not apparent in the applicant’s commissioned studies. From this, they also called for the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage to issue an Emergency Conservation Order.

‘These pleas seem to have gone unnoticed as the rock cutters gouge out another part of Malta’s heritage. It is not known what kind of monitoring is taking place to ensure that the excavations have no impact on the Grade 1 Scheduled Harq Hammiem Cave,’ Graffitti’s post states.

FLASH NEWS – db Group demolishing historical sitesRock-cutters went into action on the site of the scheduled St George…

Posted by Moviment Graffitti on Thursday, May 16, 2019

(Source explains that the image was taken by a fellow contact and not by Independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola, which it is attributed to.)

DB Group have issued a statement refuting our claim that works destroying historical and sensitive sites are underway at…

Posted by Moviment Graffitti on Thursday, May 16, 2019

Going ahead

Speaking to Newsbook.com.mt, one of the objectors to the development explained that while the site has not been demolished, they were concerned that this signaled developers going ahead with the work despite the next Court session set to take place on the 28th May and a final judgment on the objectors appeal, due on the 19th June.

The source’s main concerns were over the existence of heavy machinery ‘seen in action’ and in ‘close proximity of a Grade 2 scheduled military barracks, a grade 1 cave and the Cold War bunker.’

They outlined worries associated with how the development would affect the barracks, which are understood to date back to the 1860s as well as to discovery of the Cold War Bunker. The source explained that excavating the site with the bunker was dangerous. A similar bunker had been sealed because of the threat it posed for the leak of asbestos into the air.

In their statements to fellow Maltese media, the spokesperson for DB Group said that the works around the barracks were above board.

Miguela Xuereb

SCH Stop order

Speaking to Newsbook.com.mt the source also raised concerns about the lack of monitoring of the Grade 1 Scheduled Harq Hammiem Cave. They stated that information about the sensitivity of the site had been submitted very recently to the SCH with the request for an Emergency Conservation Order. SCH duly issued a ‘Stop Order’ in April because there had been no monitor on the site, they explained. The body had reported at the time that had been a ‘serious breach of permit conditions’ and could’ve spelled damage to the caves.  Given the alleged activity today, ‘it is not known whether such monitors were on site today,’ the source said.

While having ‘nothing to add’ in their previous statements, Newsbook.com.mt  did ask for clarification of whether archaeological monitors were present at the site and what measures were being made to protect the sensitive areas. Newsbook.com.mt was referred to contact the Superintendent for Cultural Heritage, whom they said would provide clarification that the group had ‘responded to all objections extensively.’

‘We have nothing to hide’ – db Group claims

Following their suggestion, Newsbook.com.mt attempted to contact the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, but were unsuccessful. A request for comment has been lodged with the authority.

Breach of law, natural justice and legal procedures

The fight over the construction of a 37 storey tower and 17 storey hotel on the former ITS site, has been brewing since the middle of 2018.

Ever since the Planning Authority granted permission for the development in September, the project has received thousands of objections from residents and local NGOs.

Updated: db Group changing its plans for ITS site, a ‘significant win’ – Graffitti

In recent months, the project has been fought through the Planning Authority’s Appeals Tribunal with two lawsuits filed over the project. In February, the combined might of NGOs, residents and three local councils managing to remove three floors in building height along with creating more public open spaces.

db Group

However, they stated that there are still outstanding arguments over the development’s impact on the community and capacity of existing infrastructure to deal with the disruption and potentially increased flow of traffic on nearby roads.  They were appealing the tribunal’s decision as well as filing action over the PA’s issuing over the permit to the db Group.

The appellants argued that the move breached Maltese law, going against natural justice and legal procedures.