The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

PA indicates intention to vote against controversial Maghtab fuel station application

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 7 December 2017, 12:43 Last update: about 8 days ago

The Planning Authority Board today indicated its intention to vote against the controversial Maghtab fuel station application.

This controversial case surrounds the relocation of the fuel station. The case was previously heard before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal which ordered the Planning Authority Board to reconsider the case. This particular application has seen Maghtab residents unite and argue against the application. The original application was for full development permission for the relocation of an existing fuel station in Mosta with a new Fuel Station in Salina road, located outside the limits for development of Naxxar, which includes: car washing facility, ancillary Class 4B retail facilities and underlying garages as a replacement of two existing dilapidated farmhouses and their ground

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The case officer’s report read: “site ownership covers an approximate area of 3,590m² and site area under consideration amounts to 3,416m² where 440m² is dedicated for landscaping, leaving an area of 2,976m² for the fuel station development.” The Planning Directorate had recommended that the application be approved.

The applicant’s representatives said today, that the initial proposal was of 3,400 sqm but after discussions during the application process, the final proposal would see the site area reduced to 2,900 sqm, in addition to landscaping.

The flows of cars were studied, and a queuing lane for the car washes and pumps are included in the design, the board heard. A ghost island was also created, taken from the site itself.

The applicant’s representative also highlighted that the current station, in Mosta, consists of five pumps and is situated on a curb.

Originally, the Planning Authority had turned down the application back in March 2016. The board’s original refusal noted that the development runs counter to Rural Objective 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) which aims to protect and enhance the positive qualities of the landscape and the traditional components of the rural landscape

The applicant filed an appeal and the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal had, last September, declared the Planning Authority's decision taken on the fuel station as null, ordering the case to be reheard by the Planning Authority Board. The Tribunal had ruled that the Board of the Planning Authority failed to give specific reasons as to why they had refused the development.

The Planning Directorate’s presentation today noted that the Naxxar local council was against the project, noting that it went against policies, will affect residences, will create a precedent and will affect traffic. It noted that the applicant changed the colour scheme and landscaping would be used in order to minimize the visual impact, and would include the use of trees.

 

The objectors, including the Maghtab Residents Assoication, again argued that the area is categorized as a Category 2 Rural Settlement, that the development runs counter to the SPED and other policies.

Architect Carmel Cacopardo spoke of public policy, and said that a number of countries including Malta entered an obligation to reduce emissions. He said that by an unspecified date, as has been said in Malta, cars would no longer use petrol or diesel.

The objectors also underlined that the actual site, if taking into account the ghost island that must be created, is larger than what is allowed within the Fuel Station Policy.

The objectors also mentioned that the area is prone to flooding and that the ghost island, which would need to be created in order for the station to be approved, was not calculated in the site area. He also mentioned noise concerns. Residents also called the project perilous.

The applicants representatives argued that the final take up area is below the 3,000sqm requirement for the fuel station policy, and with regard to flooding, said precautions would be taken so that fuel would not seep into fields with the water. As for the noise, the applicant said mitigation measures would be taken, and that the noise level from heavy vehicles using the road is higher than the jet washers.

The objectors had mentioned a draft policy which plans to state that fuel service stations would not be allowed in Maghtab, however the applicant’s representatives argued that this should not be considered, given that it is still a draft, and as such given that the draft needs to specifically state that indicates that the current policy allows fuel stations in the area.

ERA Chairman Victor Axiak highlighted environmental concerns, declaring he will vote against the application. Planning Authority Board Chairman Vince Cassar also declared he will vote against, noting visual impacts, being unconvinced about the area of development, and the station being placed near residences as his main reasons.

The board took an indicative vote today, where six of the eight members, including the local council representative, indicated their intention to overturn the Planning Directorate’s decision to approve the application, and thus their intention to vote against it. An official vote will be taken in another sitting as per law.

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