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PA rejects two ODZ fuel station applications

Fuel stations were earmarked for Żebbuġ and Iklin

The site of the proposed fuel station in Iklin.

The site of the proposed fuel station in Iklin.

Updated at 12.30pm

Proposed ODZ fuel stations in Żebbuġ and Iklin were unanimously rejected by the Planning Authority on Thursday.

They were both been recommended for refusal, as they are less than 500 metres – the minimum distance stipulated by policy – from the nearest existing fuel station.

The applicants on Thursday made various arguments on the way in which the distance had been calculated but both failed to sway the board.

The two applications would each have taken up around 3,000 square metres of unbuilt land outside development zones and have both drawn objections from eNGOs and the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA).

The Żebbuġ proposal was targeting a 3,300 square metre area of disturbed agricultural land on Triq L-Imdina, located within a designated area of agricultural importance but currently used as an ad hoc car park.

Din L-Art Ħelwa objected to the application – along with Front Ħarsien ODZ and Nature Trust – due to negative visual impact, increased pollution and the presence of similar facilities nearby.

The ERA had warned that the development will increase development pressures in the countryside and ODZ sites along the bypass, which are largely free from development.

Meanwhile, the Iklin application, located on Triq Tal-Balal, had prompted opposition from the local councils of Għargħur and Iklin, which say there is “no legitimate reason” for the fuel station to be built on ODZ land.

“The resultant environmental impacts would include the loss of the flora and fauna on and around the site, the loss of the ecosystem services provided by the site and the loss of soils, as well as the loss of rubble walls,” the Iklin council said in its objection.

“There would also be impacts on air quality, having negative effects on those farming in the area and those enjoying walking and recreation in the area.”

The ERA once again highlighted the lack of justification for the take-up of rural land for commercial uses, while Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din L-Art Ħelwa and Nature Trust also registered their objections.

The two applications were heard in the context of an ongoing review of the controversial Fuel Stations Policy, which allows facilities to be relocated from urban areas to ODZ land.

The ERA’s proposed revision, which was published last month, would limit ODZ development to upgrading existing stations and reduce the maximum size from 3,000 to 2,000 square metres, as well as increasing the distance between facilities from 500 metres to 1.5 kilometres. However, the new policy would not apply to pending applications, of which there are currently around 10, which will continue to be assessed under the existing, more permissive policy.

One of the other pending applications, on Qormi Road in Luqa, is hanging in the balance after the PA board split down the middle during a hearing last month, with a final decision now due at the end of May.

Last month’s hearing had been delayed after a lengthy standoff with activists, who stormed the public meeting demanding that all applications be suspended until the completion of the policy review.

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