Updated | ODZ petrol station application in B'Bugia withdrawn

The Planning Authority refused a last-minute attempt by the applicant to change the plans for a proposed petrol station in Birżebbuġa

Updated at 12pm with PA decision

An application for a petrol station in Birżebbuġa was withdrawn after the Planning Authority chairman refused a last-minute attempt by the applicant to change an application for a brand new petrol station into an application for relocation of a petrol station from Victoria.

The applicant also changed plans to reduce the size of the fuel station to 3,000 sq.m. from the proposed 4,100 sq.m. to conform to policy.

But PA chairman Vince Cassar and CEO Johann Buttigieg insisted that the developer had plenty of time to change the application and such a change at the last minute was illegal.

The applicant then withdrew the application, which had been slated for refusal after it did not conform to policy on ODZ petrol stations.

Another application for an ODZ  petrol station in Żabbar had been withdrawn after it was slated for refusal by the case officer.

Petrol station policy

The controversial policy permits petrol stations outside development zones if these conform to a number of conditions.

The brand new petrol station proposed in Triq Hal Far in B’Bugia exceeded the 3,000 sq.m. limit set by the existing policy. Although the site under consideration is situated in close proximity to an industrial area (Hal Far), it is not located opposite or adjacent to it, as required by policy. The proposal also includes a cafeteria and a snack bar.

In two weeks time the PA is also set to refuse an application presented in 2007 which involves a 2,100 sq.m petrol station on agricultural land at the Mriehel by pass in Qormi. The site is opposite to an industrial area and can be considered to be suitable to accommodate fuel stations, according to the existing policy. But the application is still being recommended for refusal because a final clearance was not issued by Transport Malta and other bodies such as the Agriculture Advisory Committee.

The second reason for refusal given by the Planning Directorate goes beyond the limits of the existing policy, deeming the loss of agricultural land unacceptable because the application does not involve a relocation of an existing petrol station but a new one.

It was Environment Minister Jose Herrera who in January last year had announced that ERA would be making proposals to revise the current policy. The Planning Authority commenced the policy review at the beginning of summer. Minister Ian Borg has recently declared that he expects the review to be concluded in the next weeks.

While the Environment and Resources Authority had presented proposals which would effectively ban new petrol stations in the ODZ, Borg has hinted that the new policy will still permit the relocation of petrol stations from urban areas to the ODZ.

Moviment Graffitti had called on the PA to stop considering applications under the present policy and has called on the authorities to immediately implement a revised version of the petrol stations policy, “one which does not allow petrol stations in ODZ”.

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