[WATCH] Planning Authority can’t postpone pending fuel station applications to appease public - Ian Borg

Applicants can resort to legal remedies if the Planning Authority doesn’t adhere to standard procedures

A review of the policy has taken almost two years to complete
A review of the policy has taken almost two years to complete

Transport and planning minister Ian Borg could not say that the Planning Authority would be postponing the evaluation of development applications for fuel stations submitted under a controversial 2015 policy.

Borg was asked by MaltaToday whether, in light of the publication of a revised policy last month, the Planning Authority would be postponing evaluating a number of applications currently awaiting a decision.

Once the new policy comes into force, any pending applications will have to be evaluated according to the new policy, however it is unclear when the new policy will actually be approved.

At law, any draft policy must be put to a six-week consultation period before it is approved. If changes to the policy are made during this period, another six-week consultation period will be required.

After this, the policy will have to be discussed in parliament’s standing committee on the environment and finally submitted for the approval of the minister.

“There is a process, one which takes a number of weeks,” Borg said when asked, adding that the Planning Authority was obliged to follow its own procedures.

“If the Planning Authority, simply to win favour [with the people], doesn’t follow these procedures, the applicant has remedies within the law.”

Borg said he hoped that the spirit that guided the authority and the consultation process in general would be one that leads to a change in policy as quickly as possible.

“I explained that this is a procedure that is prescribed by law and it’s ultimately not my decision,” he said when asked to clarify.

Borg was speaking at a press conference held at the Labour Centre in Hamrun, where he again acknowledged that the policy needed to be improved.

“Nobody doubts the good intentions when the 2015 policy was written. However, what can be improved, we improve. I even kept my word with the protestors when I told them that the revision will be published at the end of April,” he said.

Last week, Moviment Graffitti called for there to be a moratorium on new fuel station applications.

“There is no sense in proposing a change while allowing applications already submitted to continue being decided on according to the old policy. It is also worth noting that it may take many, many months before any changes are effected. Therefore, Moviment Graffitti calls on the PA to halt any and all applications for fuel service stations until the proposed policy comes into effect,” Graffitti said.

READ MORE: Fuel stations ‘cut down to size’ in revised policy draft