Marsaskala council adopts cross-party stand against ODZ petrol station extension

A cross-party coalition defeats the Marsaskala mayor's position in favour of an extension to a petrol station being built on ODZ land outside the family park

Marsaskala deputy mayor Desiree Attard is one of three Labour councillors opposed to an extension of a fuel station opposite the family park
Marsaskala deputy mayor Desiree Attard is one of three Labour councillors opposed to an extension of a fuel station opposite the family park

The Marsaskala council voted against the approval of a proposed extension to a petrol station being built on ODZ land opposite the family park.

The council voted 6-3 to oppose the proposed extension on agricultural land after three Labour councillors, the two Nationalist councillors and an independent, opposed the stand taken by Labour mayor Mario Calleja.

While Calleja and Labour councillors Elizabeth Cassar and former mayor Charlot Mifsud voted in favour of the petrol station extension, the Labour deputy mayor Desiree Attard, and Labour councillors Lawrence Ciantar and Daniel Spiteri voted against.

PN councillors Sandro Gatt and John Baptist Camilleri, and independent councillor Charlot Cassar, also opposed the plans.

A majority of council members had approved the original application for a petrol station in the area.

For deputy mayor Desiree Attard, who had consistently opposed the development, yesterday's vote represents a positive shift on the part of the council towards prioritising residents' interests.

“I objected to this extension as it is being proposed on ODZ land, which is very close to a residential area. Moreover, no applications regarding fuel stations should be approved before the current policy is significantly amended, as had been promised by government months ago,”she told MaltaToday.

The petrol station was approved by the Planning Authority in an outside development zone in Marsaskala, opposite the Family Park in December last year despite strong objections by the Environment and Resources Authority.

The application had been filed in 2009 long before the controversial fuel stations policy was adopted by the PA in 2014.

Subsequently, an application was presented last August proposing a 1,200 sq.m extension to the 1,500 sq.m approved several months earlier. The total area would therefore grow to a proposed 2,670 sq.m.

The PA is currently revising a policy regulating ODZ fuel stations on the basis of a draft proposed by the Environment and Resources Authority which limits the size of fuel stations to 2,000 sq.m.

But the present policy approved in 2014 allows fuel stations of up to 3,000 sq.m.

The government has also made it very clear that applications for petrol stations presented before the approval of the new policy will be processed under the old policy.

Plans submitted by architect William Lewis envisage an increase in the size of a retail shop, the addition of an ATM, additional garages and parking spaces as well as a new car wash and wiping area and the redesign of landscaped areas around the fuel station.

Applicant Patrick Guntrip is also currently seeking the green light for a 10,000 sq.m shopping mall in a former quarry right outside the Marsaskala family park, just metres away from the petrol station.

Guntrip’s wife, Josephine, is a shareholder in a Schembri Barbros subsidiary, Seaview Construction, which donated €20,000 to Labour through another subsidiary Seaview & Sons.

Seaview is in the main owned by the Schembri family, of the Schembri Barbros construction group. Seaview & Sons also runs the Pit Stop fuel station in Attard.

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