The Malta Independent 18 January 2020, Saturday

Proposed relocation of village square fuel station to larger one on ODZ land draws ERA criticism

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 3 January 2020, 10:25 Last update: about 15 days ago

An application to relocate a small kerbside fuel station from Pjazza San Nikola in Siggiewi to a site on Triq Mons.Mikiel Azzopardi in Siggiewi, which will include the construction of servicing garage, a shop, car wash, ATM and landscaping, has drawn criticism from the Environment and Resources Authority.

The ERA said that the development encroaches beyond the development zone boundary onto a rural area and that it considers that there is no valid justification for the further loss of undeveloped rural land and associated environmental impacts to accommodate the development of “a significantly enlarged fuel station beyond the development zone boundary.”

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The ERA also said that there is concern regarding the cumulative environmental impact caused by the numerous ad hoc proposals for petrol stations currently being proposed on ODZ land. “An ad hoc Environment Impact Assessment for this proposal per se would still leave this strategic-level environmental concern unresolved.”

The ERA also added that given that the Fuel Service Station Policy (April 2015) is currently under review the proposal is also considered premature pending the coming into force of the updated Fuel Service Station Policy.

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) has submitted its objection to the above-mentioned application, highlighting a number of reasons.

FAA argued that the site lies on the Siggiewi bypass, surrounding by terraced fields.

FAA maintains that the very fact that this ridge-edge site is out of the development zone should automatically disqualify it; the site is clearly part of Wied Xkora, which the PA itself noted needs to be part of a regeneration policy of Wied Xkora.”

“The policy to relocate urban fuel stations still exists, however they should be moved to industrial or brownfield sites in order to protect the rural status of ODZ sites. In spite of the soil report which stated that the site has little agricultural value, this site has been cultivated and a harvest produced in recent months. Additionally the surrounding fields are still being worked therefore the increase in air pollution generated by the fuel station will increase the rate of lead pollution in the soil, rendering crops grown there unfit for human and animal consumption.”

FAA argued that the proposed fuel station entry and exit will also cut into the country walking promenade, “making it dangerous for pedestrians to use that part due to cars entering and exiting, as well as increasing traffic congestion, noise and air pollution, parking problems and other nuisances, intruding on what was once an idyllic, quiet, rural and peaceful community - one of the last few remaining on the archipelago.”

FAA added that manoeuvrability into and out of the bypass (Mons Mikiel Azzopardi Street) “would be seriously compromised as it is a 2-lane bypass and as such, any car slowing down to access or exit the station would seriously disrupt the flow of traffic.”

The NGO also spoke of the visual impact of the project. “This project would have a severe adverse impact on the surrounding ODZ landscape, not just in the extent of the take-up of land, but the design of the structure, its large canopy, disproportionate in height and extent, as well as the stark colour scheme of the structure.”

The Siggiewi local council also weighed in on the application, and said the relocation is desirable but added that it was not consulted.

The council noted current station is located in the main village square, adjacent to a chapel built in 1742. The council noted that the station has been in the square for over 80 years, and consists of 4 pumps and a canopy.

“The local council has always been of the opinion that the fuel station should be relocated for aesthetic purposes, health and safety purposes as well as for better traffic management and for the regeneration of the main square.”

The council said that the station does not fit in well with the village square and is not compatible with the main features of the square – the Church, chapel and the statue of St Nicholas.

While the council notes that it is of the opinion that the station should be relocated if agreement of an alternative site is found, it added that it was not involved in consultation prior to the application and that the council does not have any environmental studies, geographic studies, traffic management analysis or other desired documentation that can confirm that the applicant’s new site is the only and best location for the relocation.

The council noted that the current location of the station involved cars queuing in the square in order to wait for service, which sometimes causes traffic flow issues.

“The relocation of the fuel station is desirable for the above reasons but the council also notes that the alternative site for such relocation should be chosen after widespread consultation and after all necessary studies are carried out to identify the best alternative site in Siggiewi.”

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