[WATCH] Updated | Activists forcibly removed by police at peaceful demonstration at Planning Authority

Despite promising a review of the controversial fuel stations policy nine months ago, no changes have yet been announced by the environment ministry

Moviment Graffitti and KEA protest absence of fuel policy review

Activists from Moviment Graffitti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent held a demonstration during a Planning Authority Board meeting over authorities’ refusal to review the controversial ODZ fuel station policy.

The protestors were forcibly removed from the PA offices by police officers from the Rapid Intervention Unit.

The PA board is discussing whether or not to approve an application for a massive fuel station in Zejtun.

“This direct action is to highlight the fact that, a full nine months after the authorities’ promise to review an obscene Fuel Service Station Policy, no changes to this policy have been made so far,” the activists said.

The current policy is intended to allow for the relocation of fuel stations situated in village cores to areas further away from the centre. It policy also allows operators to substantially increase the fuel stations’ footprint and for the construction of related services.

“We demand that the processing of all pending ODZ fuel stations applications is suspended until the reviewed policy enters into force,” the activists said.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) presented a review of the policy, which was requested by Environment minister Jose Herrera, last April.

ERA recommended that no new ODZ fuel stations would be allowed, but the activists said that despite the recommendation, the PA had done nothing.

“Instead of immediately taking steps to reform the policy, [it] stalled the process. It was only last July, three months after the ERA review, that the PA opened a public consultation exercise on this matter,” they said. 

There are currently twelve pending applications for ODZ fuel stations having the total size of over 52,000m². Four ODZ fuel stations with a total size of 12,000m² have already been approved.

Proposed fuel station refused

Once the meeting got underway, the PA board turned down the application for the fuel station. The application was turned down by 10 votes against and one in favour.

People should be free to protest in a democracy – PN

In a statement later in the evening, the Nationalist Party condemned what it described as excessive force by the police officers called in to stop the demonstration.

“In a democratic country, it is a fundamental right for people to be allowed to protest and the Nationalist Party is disappointed by the fact that a peaceful protest outside the Planning Authority ended up in the use of excessive force,” the party said in a statement.

“While people have the right to protest, the state must see to it that the police are there to protect those who are protesting rather than silence them. In a country which is truly democratic, citizens, civil society and the police deserve better.”

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