The Malta Independent 18 October 2018, Thursday

PA Board shoots down application for fuel station on Tal-Balal road

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 17 May 2018, 11:54 Last update: about 6 months ago

An application to construct a fuel station on tal-Balal road, Iklin, just down the road from an already existing station, was unanimously refused by the Planning Authority Board today.

The station proposed on Tal-Balal road, the road connecting Naxxar to San Gwann, is not too far from the existing station where a Mac Donald’s drive through currently stands. In fact the case officer, in his report, noted that the proposed fuel station “cannot be recommended in view that it is located less than 500 metres from an existing service station which caters for traffic moving in both directions.”

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The proposal would have seen the construction of a fuel station and ancillary facilities, which include car washing facility and drying areas; filling points, service station (Shop), tyre service garage, parking spaces, underground fuel tanks, and an ATM facility. The land under consideration has been abandoned, but was used for the parking of vehicles. The Gharghur and Iklin local councils had objected to the project, as did a number of ENGs including FAA, Din L-Art Helwa, Nature Trust Malta,

The applicant’s legal representatives asked the PA Board, as their case was called, to suspend the sitting and change the application to a relocation of a fuel station, rather than in its present form as the construction of a new station, explaining that the applicant recently purchased a new station, which could be relocated.

The PA Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg said that at this stage, this was not able to be done legally, and in addition, said that changing the application to a relocation would make no difference as the application still did not adhere to policy parameters, thus it would have no bearing on the application.

The Chairman, Vince Cassar, took note of the executive chairman’s statement and asked the board if there was any objection to continuing to hear the application as is, to which no board member objected.

The applicant’s architect noted that the proposal would include landscaping to mask the development in the surrounding context.

The applicant’s lawyer argued that the reason for refusing this application is a particular article in the fuel station policy. The article is as fllowes: “Due to the confusion that may be created for the motorist, MEPA will not normally permit the location of a fuel station within a 500m distance of an existing station, in the same direction of traffic. However, MEPA may favourably consider fuel stations on the opposite side of the road from an existing station, if it can be demonstrated that traffic on the opposite lane from the existing traffic cannot easily access it. In the case of two way single carriageways, fuel stations may not be allowed to be located directly opposite each other in view of possible conflicting entry and exit paths to each station.2

The applicant’s lawyer argued that the application regards a site that is not in the same direction of traffic, and is on the opposite carriageway, and thus the 500m doesn’t apply.. They also said that it is not directly opposite another station. The applicant noted that the Planning Authority has discretion to allow the station as the policy uses the words “will not normally.” The applicant’s lawyer also tried to argue, using the highway code, that the stations were over 500m away, using the highway code to state that certain manoeuvres were illegal and thus had to be taken into consideration when calculating the distance. They argued that the highway code does not allow for cars to turn into the station if heading towards Naxxar, arguing that one is not meant to turn right into a fuel station in a dual carriageway. He said that the ghost island present, “which one is not meant to pass through anyway,” was included for cars to go to McDonalds car park or the drive through. The fuel station was not part of that permission, he said.

They also noted that in the past, the authority has allowed fuel stations to be built less than 500m away from each other.

The planning directorate, in their presentation, noted that the distance between the proposed station and the existing station is 350m, yet the applicant’s lawyers said that the distance must be calculated according to the road, and not in a straight line. The directorate held it calculated the distance along the road.

The distance was then calculated on the basis of the PA maps, and it was found to be around 320m from the two closest points, along the road, of the existing and proposed station. Some board members argued that the ghost island is still used to access the fuel station.

One of the objectors argued whether it is just for agricultural land to be used for a fuel station.

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