Government hits back over St George planning row
Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, has insisted that “misleading” information has been given to the media over a high-profile planning dispute.
The Deputy Premier said that the Government supported small business, but development rules had to be obeyed.
The comments were in response to entrepreneur Marico Thomas questioning ministers’ backing for business after he ran into planning problems for a project in St George’s.
The dispute centres on an extractor fan which forms part of a redevelopment of The Pub on the Square in the old town.
Mr Roban said: “At no time did the department halt the project or issue a stop order on the development contrary to Mr Thomas’ allegations.
“Instead, in an extraordinary show of good faith, following the misleading information presented to the media, the Department of Planning went to great efforts to discuss with Mr Thomas various options to address the concerns, and mitigate the challenge of the visual impact of the extraction fan upon the listed building and World Heritage Site.
“We will continue to work with Mr Thomas to find a workable solution to this matter to ensure a beneficial outcome for all concerned.”
Mr Roban said the planning process was working in good order and the extractor fan was not on the original application for the property.
He said: “The streamlined processes implemented by the Government regarding planning applications continued to encourage many building projects to start early during the pandemic, which has helped local businesses and the economy overall.
“We appreciate the contribution of Mr Thomas to our economy and our workforce.
“I have been made aware of Mr Thomas’ planning concerns. However, this matter must be viewed in its fullest context.
“The building in question is a Grade 2 Listed Building and located within an historic Protection Area and the World Heritage Site for St George’s.
“As such, the planning application had to be reviewed by three required entities: the Corporation of St Georges, St George’s Preservation Authority and the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee.
“During the review stage, the Preservation Authority sought additional clarity as to what specific changes would be made to the external façade. A response was provided, but there was no mention of the extractor fan.
“To be clear, planning approval was granted for the renovation of the ground-floor kitchen and to repair the porch.
“The planning application did not show exhaust fans, and, hence, the planning permission did not include the installation of exhaust fans.
“I should also stress that the Department of Planning were made aware of issues by area residents, the Corporation of St George and the St George’s Preservation Society — with the latter having the statutory authority to approve or refuse any renovations. These concerns prompted the investigation by the Department of Planning.”