The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Mepa sitting suspended after heated arguments and accusations of professional disloyalty

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 25 February 2016, 16:52 Last update: about 9 years ago

The Mepa hearing on the relocation of the fuel station to Maghtab has been suspended, following heated arguments and an accusation of professional disloyalty by AD Deputy Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo, in his capacity as an architect, against a representative of the Planning Directorate.

Mr Cacopardo, as well as residents in the area, had been arguing that a particular policy was not taken into consideration. After residents made these arguments, the representative of the Planning Directorate argued that it was considered, and began making his arguments. At this point, Carmel Cacopardo stood up asked why none of these reasons were included in the DPAR report and accused him of professional disloyalty for not including these arguments in their documents.

Mepa Chairman Vince Cassar asked him to withdraw the accusation, however he would not. At this point Vince Cassar walked out and the sitting was suspended to another week.

During the sitting, it was said that the proposed relocation site is wedged between the two streets (Triq Salina c/w Trejqet L-Arznu). The applicants said that traffic studies and consultations took place, adding that the site is not of agricultural value. They said the trees present on site will also be kept, and a number of them will be transparted to another part of the property facing Naxxar, in order to reduce the visual impact.  it was also said that there is space for cars to wait on site if the car washes are full, in order to avoid creating problems on the road.

There are five proposed car wash bays and an automatic car wash. Landscaping would occur to reduce the visual impact on the area.

The station in Mosta has 5 operational pumps and a decommissioning plan has already been submitted. It was said that the project was originally for the construction of a station in Maghtab, but after the relocation policy was introduced, it changed.

PV panels were removed from the original design due to the visual impact, however it was said that other methods of green energy exist that could be explored.

It was also said that air quality levels in terms of Benezene would not go above the 5microgramme safety level.

The Board heard that there would not be any significant traffic impact as the station would not attract many more customers other than those who already pass through that area.

The project, would see a number of mitigation management measures, including - double skin tanks and pipes, a leak detection system, impermeable forecourt and tank pit, oil water separators, petrol vapour recovery, wet stock management and dispensing limit outside working hours (aka limit on how much fuel one can take from pump to limit possibility of spills)

Carmel Cacopardo had delivered a brief presentation against the project. “The central issue, which seems to have been missing from most presentations given, is that the site forms part of Rural settlement Category 2 (Policy CG04 in the Central Malta Local Plan). If some basic research was conducted, one would see that wall to wall with the site, there is a previously refused application as it forms part of Rural Settlement Category 2, and this was also confirmed in the appeal of that case".

“This is basic information which you must take into consideration”.

“Looking at CG04, it specifies what can be built in the rural settlement, and a petrol station is not one of the developments allowed under this policy”

He read from MEPA policy and said that the aim of this designation as a Category 2 Rural Settlement is to prevent further development of incompatible uses in the area, due to the disorganised state of the settlement.

He said that since this is part of a rural settlement, this Board has its hands tied and cannot allow another use that conflicts with policy CGO4.

Jonathan Buttigieg said he was speaking for the 116 residents who live in the Maghtab Hamlet. “The proposed development is close to houses and is surrounded by agricultural land”.

The Central Malta Local Plan states that Maghtab is a Category 2 Rural settlement, he said, that must be protected and rehabilitated.

He said that Mepa Mapserver itself shows that the site is a Category 2 residential area. 

Residents also argued that noise caused by the jet washers would be well above EU safety standards, however this was countered with arguments stating that noise level from traffic was just as high. The argument made by residents was that 2 jetwashers generate noise of around 77 or 80 decibels. "EU Noise guidelines state that noise levels ranging between 40 and 55 decibles result in people needing to adapt their lives to cope with the noise and than noise above 55 decibels is considered dangerous and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.Coutering this, it was said that the noise level of jetwashers being 77-80 decibels is the level at source, and that traffic there already generates 70 decibels. 

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