The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Fuel station policy review - Good, but let’s make it better

Saturday, 4 May 2019, 09:49 Last update: about 5 months ago

The revised fuel stations policy, published by the government on Monday, is a step in the right direction but, as some environmental NGOs have pointed out, it still has a number of loopholes that can be abused of.

While some of the changes proposed by these groups have been addressed, others have not. The positive thing is that the policy is now up for consultation, which means that more changes and fine tuning can be made.

ADVERTISEMENT

The group that made the biggest effort to have the controversial 2015 policy changed – Moviment Graffitti – noted earlier this week that, while pending applications are to be decided on the basis of the proposed policy once this comes into effect, there is no mention of the applications due to be heard in the period up to the approval of the new policy.

The group said that that it makes no sense to process applications until the policy comes into effect. Both Graffitti and Din l-Art Helwa said in their reactions that all applications should be suspended until after the policy becomes law. We agree wholeheartedly with this statement, and have made the same argument on several occasions. The Planning Authority, for example should not have decided the application of the controversial Burmarrad fuel station last week, just days before the policy was published.

One positive aspect of the revised policy is that it restricts the use of untouched ODZ land for the purpose of constructing new fuel stations. However, some rules that are found in the 2015 policy were removed. These include the rule that a new fuel station cannot be built on a site within 500 metres of an existing fuel station. There is also no limit on the size of new fuel stations, raising the question as to whether newer stations can be even bigger than existing ones.

One of the greatest criticisms of the 2015 policy was that fuel stations could take up an area of some 3,000 square metres, with the excuse that in order to be financially viable, these businesses needed to include ancillary facilities, such as a car wash and mechanic shop. With the apparent removal of a size limit, one can assume that fuel stations approved under the new policy can take up a much larger footprint.

The newly published policy also allows for the upgrading of facilities for ancillary services. This seems to open the door for fuel stations to expand for reasons unrelated to the fuel dispensing function, again providing a loophole that can be exploited, Graffitti said.

NGOs such as Moviment Graffitti and DLH did a great job by raising awareness on the need for a new policy and also by highlighting the inexcusable delays and dragging of feet. Ultimately, their antics worked.

The authorities were humiliated to such an extent by the loudspeakers, the drums, the chants and the camp protests that they had to act. But the fight does not stop there. The policy is now up for public consultation and it is up to us, the general public, to show our support and do our bit. The policy is a vast improvement over the one it will be replacing, but it can still be greatly improved.

 

  • don't miss