The Malta Independent 25 March 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Revised Fuel Station policy - Stop taking us for a ride

Saturday, 5 January 2019, 10:15 Last update: about 4 months ago

The pressure group Moviment Graffitti on Thursday accused the Planning Authority of dragging its feet and taking people for a ride on the new fuel station policy. In our view, the group could not have said it any better.

Like with the case of the Paceville master plan, which had to be scrapped and is supposedly being rebuilt from scratch, the PA is taking it too easy and, in the meantime, the environment continues to suffer while certain developers continue to fatten their pockets at our expense.

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The current fuel station policy was partly intended to relocate fuel stations away from village cores, which, in itself, is not a bad idea. The problem is that these stations were allowed to be moved to ODZ areas. And what was once a tiny village-core fuel pump could now become a sprawling 3,000 square metre complex complete with car wash facilities, an ATM and a cafeteria because, you know, distances in Malta are so great that one tends to get hungry when travelling from one village to the next.

2017 was notorious for the number of applications that the Planning Authority received for the relocation or construction of new fuel stations. In some cases, the proposed fuel stations would be located just a couple of hundred of metres away from an existing station.

And as long as the existing policy remains in place, the applications will keep coming in, and the PA will have no choice but to judge these proposals according to the existing rules. Moviment Graffitti pointed out this week that there are currently 16 applications for ODZ fuel stations, with four having been accepted already and the others still being processed, covering a total area equal to six times the Floriana Granaries.

The pressure group reminded that a full year has passed since Environment Minister Jose Herrera admitted that the existing policy is flawed and needs to be revised. Since then, Graffitti activists have carried out a number of direct actions during PA board meetings, demanding the immediate revision of the policy. And more than a thousand individuals have sent an email to the authorities expressing their outrage at this policy and at the PA's inaction in changing it.

In November 2017, The Malta Independent had reported that a finalized version of the revised policy had been handed to PA chief Johann Buttigieg. The policy was drawn up after consultation meetings with several stakeholders, including environmental NGOs. A first draft was circulated to the authorities in August and the finalized version was given to Buttigieg in November. This newspaper, quoting from the meetings of a meeting of Parliament’s environment committee, reported that after the letter was handed to the PA chief it was to be discussed and then issued for a six-week public consultation process. That consultation process has not yet started.

We believe that a year was more than enough for the policy to be reviewed, issued for public consultation and finalized. As things stand, we have no indication of when this policy will be concluded and come into effect. Until then, the destruction of our green areas will continue.

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