NGOs call for removal of Planning Commission chairman

Moviment Graffitti

Eleven non-governmental organisations have called for the removal of Simon Saliba from chairperson of the Planning Commission for obstructing the right to a fair planning process.

In a joint statement on Monday, the NGOs said that Saliba has consistently shown disrespect for residents and other objectors during sittings held at the Planning Authority. However, the Planning Authority later reacted saying that Saliba was being unfairly targeted.

Saliba has often openly and aggressively sided with the developers instead of fulfilling his role as an impartial arbitrator, the NGOs remarked.

“One of his first big hearings was the Balluta ferry pontoon application, when his declared decision to refuse the permit was hastily changed to an approval during a session in which he bizarrely appeared to be acting as lawyer for the developers,” the NGOs said.

On another occasion, Saliba asked a resident to be escorted out of a hearing while last Friday he cut off the microphone of an environmental activist who was finishing an intervention against the building of apartments on a site of archaeological importance in Kalkara.

The NGOs claimed that Saliba was openly hostile towards NGOs and members of the public.

‘His arrogant attitude and outdated mindset, together with his consistent defence of developers’ interests rather than the public good, contrasts starkly with the fresh start promised by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia,’ they remarked.

The NGOs that signed the statement are: Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, GreenHouse Malta, Malta Youth in Agriculture (MaYA), Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta, the Ramblers Association of Malta and the Archaeological Society of Malta.

Planning Commission chairman is being unfairly targeted – Planning Authority

The chairperson of the Planning Commission was being unfairly targeted, the Planning Authority claimed in a statement reacting to a joint statement by eleven NGOs that called for his dismissal.

The Planning Authority said that some NGOs who are not satisfied that certain planning decisions have been approved despite their objection.

The planning watchdog claimed that the joint NGO statement was a subtle way of ‘intimidating and putting undue pressure on its deciding boards and commissions to start making decisions solely based on the opinion of the objectors’.

“Although the Planning Commission or Board is not required by law to have members of the public speak during a meeting in public, the practice is that the Chairpersons of the respective Board and Commissions always give the public present ample time and space to make their views known. But when an interested party keeps repeating and interrupting the meeting, it is the role of the Chairperson to ensure that order is kept and a decision is taken.”

The Planning Authority once again categorically denied that the Planning Commission disregarded the submissions made by representatives.