Burmarrad petrol station approved on €50,000 planning gain, ERA ignored

PA imposes €50,000 contribution to compensate for ODZ land take-up, setting a precedent for monetary compensations  for other ODZ developments.

The 3000m2 fuel station was approved on agricultural land
The 3000m2 fuel station was approved on agricultural land

A planning application to construct a brand new petrol station on 3,000 square metres of land outside development zones in Burmarrad – opposite the Kiabi complex – has been approved, after the Planning Authority imposed a €50,000 planning gain.

The PA’s planning directorate originally recommended a €14,000 planning gain – a fund for environmental projects inside localities – but PA chairman Vince Cassar proposed that this should be increased to €50,000, which met the approval of the board.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) had objected to the application insisting that it was “unacceptable from an environmental point of view, given that the overall development/interventions will commit the entire site and introduce unnecessary and excessive formalisation, and uptake of land at the expense of undeveloped rural land.”

ERA chairman Victor Axiak voted against the application alongside the NGOs’ representative and the mayor of St Paul’s Bay, Graziella Galea. All the other board members voted in favour of the development. 

The proposed site is listed as an Area of Agricultural Importance in the North West Local Plan Policy. Like the ERA, the Agriculture Advisory Committee 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, in this case the Burmarrad Commercials complex.


How policy allowed the ODZ petrol station

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

But the criteria for ODZ petrol stations 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 so called  ‘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 450m 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.


Adverse impact

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

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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