ERA keeps up opposition to rule-bending fuel stations

The Environment and Resources Authority is continuing to oppose proposed fuel stations on Rabat Road and on the site of a Qormi car park

While Ludwig Camilleri’s architect says the nearby Pit Stop station in Attard is 510m away, the ERA insists that the “geographic distance” is substantially less than 500m
While Ludwig Camilleri’s architect says the nearby Pit Stop station in Attard is 510m away, the ERA insists that the “geographic distance” is substantially less than 500m

The Environment and Resources Authority is digging its heels in to oppose two fuel stations – both outside development zones – one along the picturesque Rabat Road and another one on the site of a Qormi car park of dubious legality.

The two developments are being assessed under the controversial petrol station policy approved in 2015 which was proposed for revision more than a year ago. Frustration on the slow pace of the revision prompted Moviment Graffitti activists to occupy the Planning Authority’s driveway for five days in a protest held last week.

The ERA, which already opposed both developments, has now been asked again for its views by the PA after the developers replied to its original reports.

It said that the degraded state of the Rabat Road site, of applicant Ludwig Camilleri, should not serve as a pretext for further ODZ development, arguing that the state of the area “simply highlights the need for land restoration.”

It pointed out that the spoil material found on site was the remnant of an illegal development removed through direct action by the PA, and that the proposal is in breach of the fuel service stations policy, which specifies a minimum 500m distance between existing petrol stations.

While Camilleri’s architect says the nearby Pit Stop station is 510m away, the ERA insists that the “geographic distance” is substantially less than 500m. The ERA even accused the architect of going “to great lengths” by resorting to “over-stretched interpretation of the entry points and turning circles related to the existing station” so as to arrive at a figure that just exceeds the policy threshold.

Below: Moviment Graffitti protests the fuel stations policy rules outside the Planning Authority
Below: Moviment Graffitti protests the fuel stations policy rules outside the Planning Authority

The ERA had already shot down Camilleri’s proposal to plant mature trees to screen the petrol station from long-distance views, noting that five mature Aleppo pines on the roadside would still be removed: “landscaping should not be considered a sufficient premise to allow environmentally-objectionable development in the ODZ.”

And rebutting the developer’s argument of having already considered a Salini site before the Rabat Road site, the ERA said the Salini proposal did not even merit consideration as a potential alternative, in view of its evident incompatibility with the surrounding environment. “The earlier inclusion of such a non-starter does not justify the favourable consideration of another objectionable site on the pretext that the earlier option was even worse.”

Despite the ERA’s objections, the PA’s design advisory panel said it was “not averse” to the latest plans from a design point of view, while the Regulator of Energy and Water Services has withdrawn earlier objections, following the submission of a technical report by the developer.

The latest plans for the 3,000sq.m development propose a 460sq.m built-up area, with 920sq.m of soft landscaping and 100sq.m for car wash structures, while the service station’s canopy will spread over 150sq.m.

Qormi station

The ERA has also reiterated its objections to plans by the company Tuminvest to develop a charging station for electrical and gas-powered cars on a site presently used as a car park in Mdina Road in Qormi.

The car park in question is not covered by any permit and therefore the land in question cannot be considered as land committed for development.

The ERA reiterated its main objection to the uptake of undeveloped land beyond development zones. It previously insisted that charging stations can be easily sited within existing developments and did not necessitate the commitment of fresh land outside already committed development zones.

Apart from the charging stations, the proposal also includes a car wash and a cafeteria with seating area.

The charging station would provide 10 outlet units for about 200-300 vehicles daily. An LPG fuelling facility will cater for about 100 vehicles daily.

Eatery approved in Burmarrad petrol station

In a decision which could set a precedent for other approved fuel stations, last week  the Planning Commission approved an application which will allow the already approved petrol station opposite the Kiabi shopping centre, to open a small food and drinks establishment.

The catering establishment will occupy 68sq.m of space already allocated for a retail shop selling car related products like spare parts whose area has been reduced.

The PA’s case officer had insisted that the proposed food and drink establishment does not complement the use of the area as a fuel station. But the Planning Commission disagreed, insisting that the proposed small eatery is “ancillary” to the fuel station.

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