PA expects €14,000 'planning gain' for ODZ fuel station

The Planning Directorate is recommending the approval of an ODZ petrol station in Burmarrad against a €14,000 payment to compensate for its inevitable 'environmental impacts'

An ODZ permit is to be offset by a €14,000 payment
An ODZ permit is to be offset by a €14,000 payment

The Planning Directorate is recommending the approval of an ODZ petrol station in Burmarrad against a €14,000 payment to compensate for its inevitable “environmental impacts”.

Although planning gains are foreseen by law and have been imposed in the past to compensate for the environmental impact of projects, the imposition of a one-time payment to compensate for the take up of ODZ land is unprecedented.

But the PA would still be ignoring the advice of the Environmental Resources Authority if it approves the proposed 3,000m2 petrol station tomorrow.

ERA has described the proposal as unacceptable from an environmental point of view, as it would result in “unnecessary and excessive formalisation, and uptake of land at the expense of undeveloped rural land”.

But in order to compensate for the impact of the development, which is situated Outside Development Zone, the Planning Directorate is recommending a financial planning contribution as a one-time payment of €14,000 towards the Planning Fund prior to the issue of the development permission. 

The funds raised from the “planning gain” will be used to fund environmental improvement projects in Burmarrad.

The proposed site is listed as an Area of Agricultural Importance in the North West Local Plan Policy. Both the Agriculture Advisory Committee and the Environment Resources Authority objected to the proposed development, as it is located within cultivable land. 

But the site is also located adjacent to an Area of Containment, a designation for ODZ sites, which include industrial development. 

The original Fuel Stations Policy draft issued in April 2014 made no reference to development adjacent or opposite to industrial areas, and only allowed petrol stations re-located from urban areas to set up new petrol stations in rural ODZ areas.   

But the criteria for petrol stations sited outside development zones were further relaxed in the final policy document approved in March 2015 to allow brand new petrol stations in areas that are “adjacent” or “opposite” Areas of Containment. 

“Some of the submissions and a number of meetings with individuals suggested a widening of the opportunities for locating fuel stations,” a spokesperson for MEPA told MaltaToday on that occasion.

Moreover the Fuel Service Stations Policy states that due to the confusion that may be created for the motorist, new fuel stations will not normally be permitted within a distance of 500 metres from an existing fuel station. The proposed petrol station is located 450 metres from an existing fuel station located just outside the St Paul’s Bay Development Zone. But the Planning Directorate has overruled this apparent breach of policy because the two fuel stations cannot be accessed through the same carriageway.

The soil has already been cleared to enable the developers to conduct an archaeological survey requested in the ‘terms of reference’ for an environment impact assessment, which was carried out in August 2015. 

The archaeological investigations supervised by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage did not yield any discoveries on site. 

According to the terms of reference the soil was to remain stored on site “for possible reinstatement” once the investigation is completed.  

Until recently the abandoned agricultural area was covered with wild flowers and patches of wheat and cereal, probably originating from seeds left over from previous cultivation or carried by the wind from neighbouring fields.  

An Environmental Impact Assessment reveals that the development will have a marked impact on the panoramic view from Triq l-Imdawra. The petrol station will also be partially visible from Triq Burmarrad. Although the development will be partly covered by an existing rubble wall, the upper parts of the station will be visible. The petrol station will be partly hidden by various existing trees found along Triq Burmarrad. 

The development planning application was submitted by Joseph Attard, the applicant, on behalf of Construction and Turnkey House Ltd. Construction and Turnkey House Ltd have been involved in the construction and real estate industry since 2001. According to the EPS the company has lately decided to restructure and diversify its interests by investing in a fuel station.  

The approval of this permit will spell the end of another petrol station application presented by the EasySell group, which would have been situated next to the one presented by Construction and Turnkey House Ltd. 

Both petrol stations are eligible for a permit according to the new policy.

But while Construction and Turnkey’s petrol pump is adjacent to the “area of containment”, the one proposed by Easysell is itself located in the area of containment.

According to the Planning Directorate both sites are listed as suitable for a fuel station. 

“However, in terms of traffic management and the required distance from each fuel station, both applications have a bearing on each other, thus the outcome of the application presented by Construction and Turnkey would prejudice the eventual assessment” of the one presented by Easysell. 

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