Fuel depot outside development zones refused

Although the proposed activity could not be located in a residential area, the Tribunal agreed with the Authority insofar as the location identified by applicant was deemed to be unsuitable

Applicant had his planning application to relocate a fuel distribution depot, currently operating in a habitable area, refused by the Planning Commission. Essentially, the proposed drawings showed an open yard which was proposed to be located outside the development zone of Zabbar. According to the said drawings, the yard was to be levelled with concrete and bordered by a franka stone wall. Moreover, the proposal included a structure labelled as ‘attendant’s room’.

To justify its decision, the Commission brought forward the following reasons:

1. Applicant had not obtained the relative clearance from the Regulator for Energy and Water Services (The REWS was established by law for the regulation of energy and water services in Malta);

2. The proposed use was in breach of Policy SMAG 01 of the South Malta Local Plan which specifically prohibits “ buildings, structures and uses” in rural areas, unless these are not deemed essential to the needs of agriculture;

3. The proposed development would result in the removal of agricultural soil;

4. On balance, no ‘wider environmental benefit’ was envisaged

5. The proposed activity ran counter to SPED Thematic Objective 6 which seeks to safeguard environmental health from air and noise pollution and risks associated with use and management of chemicals;

6. The site had a direct access on to an arterial/distributor road and will therefore generate additional vehicle movements that would give rise to potential traffic hazards;

7. The boundary walls were built in franka stone whereas traditional rubble walling would have been more appropriate.

In reaction, applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal insisting that fuel depots were to  be located outside urban areas. Moreover, appellant contended that the soil which was envisaged to be removed as a result of the proposed interventions was of a poor quality. Concluding, applicant highlighted that the identified site was surrounded by other commercial activity.

In reply, the case officer held that such development should be directed to a designated area of containment since such zones were specifically designed to accommodate incompatible urban development, such as the one in question. Whilst acknowledging that applicant was required to relocate his business by the year 2025, it did not automatically follow that such activity could be located wherever applicant deemed fit.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the site in question was already being used as a distribution depot without a planning permit. Although the proposed activity could not be located in a residential area, the Tribunal agreed with the Authority insofar as the location identified by applicant was deemed to be unsuitable. The Tribunal also noted that applicant could not rely on surrounding commitment to justify his application since such commitment was found to be illegal. On this basis, the Tribunal dismissed the appeal.

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