Gżira mayor blasts tribunal’s decision to confirm fuel station relocation to public garden

Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manche says council will leave no stone unturned in attempt to revoke ‘outrageous’ decision to have fuel station shifted into the Council of Europe gardens

Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manche has vowed to take the fight against the fuel station relocation to court
Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manche has vowed to take the fight against the fuel station relocation to court

A fuel station next to Manoel Island bridge will be shifted into a public garden 100 metres away after a tribunal confirmed the original decision.

The Environment and Review Tribunal yesterday dismissed the appeal filed by the Gżira council against the permit to shift the pump to a 930sq.m site in the Council of Europe gardens.

Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manche said he was “immensely disappointed” with the decision and promised to continue fighting against the loss of space in the public garden.

“I expected much better from the tribunal instead of a justification for this outrageous decision based on old policies and road plans that no longer make any sense,” he told MaltaToday.

The policy was dictated by plans for the Manoel Island Link Road, which never materialised.

The link road had been a government commitment to construct a connection between the Kappara Junction roundabout and the Gżira promenade when the land at Manoel Island was transferred to the MIDI consortium. This road was never built.

For Manche the crucial issue was that part of the garden frequented by hundreds of children will be sacrificed.

“It was already madness when 50 years ago a fuel station was allowed on the foreshore… it makes no sense now to substitute this outrage with something even more outrageous… that of approving a fuel station next to one of the few green spaces in one of Malta’s most urbanised localities,” he said.

The council will be meeting again to consider other legal remedies following the confirmation of the permit by the EPRT.

The said his intention is that of challenging the decision in the law courts.

“The people of Gzira are united against this decision and we will leave no stone unturned to revoke it,” he insisted.

Manche also pointed out that the new fuel station policy approved a few weeks ago specifically states that petrol stations can only be relocated if they result in an environmental improvement.  

“How on earth can relocating a petrol station in a garden be described as an improvement?”

The new petrol station will also include a service area, a shop, office and two car washes.

Two mature She Oak trees and an olive tree will be uprooted to make way for the petrol station. To compensate for this loss the developers will be planting five oak trees and 10 olive trees in the Gżira garden.

The application has been pending since 1999 after the approval of an outline permit for the Manoel Island MIDI project which would severely impact the transport infrastructure in the area.

The relocation of the petrol station was already foreseen in the local plan for Gzira in which the Strand had been scheduled for widening to remove the bottleneck at the end of the road next to the Manoel Island bridge.

According to reports presented by the owners the new station will have a better lay out to allow easier entrance and exit for vehicles.

In its submissions, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage noted that the existing garden, where the re-allocation is proposed, has served as a public space since 1918 adding that “the re-allocation of the fuel station will further lead to a degradation of the urban landscape”.

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