Fuel pumps in rural ODZ areas limited to 3,000 square metres

But new petrol pumps may exceed 3,000 square metres on "preferred sites" like ODZ areas adjacent to industrial sites and may even be permitted on agricultural land which is not of good quality.

The government has effectively banned the development of new cemeteries, and set down new rules for the development of new fuel service stations and cemetery extensions.

A blanket proposal from the MEPA board to limit any new petrol station in outside development zones (ODZ) to a maximum 3,000 square metre floor space, was only partly accepted in the approved policy.

The limit will  apply to new petrol stations in ODZ areas, unless these are located in, semi-industrial areas used for storage, and low-key developments designated as ‘areas of containment’.  Areas of Containment (AoCs) are a subset of the general Outside Development Zone (ODZ) area, which include predominantly industrial and commercial activities. In these areas petrol pumps will be allowed to exceed the 3000 square meters limit and also to surpass a 7 meter height limitation.

Relocated pumps will be given a choice between retaining their present size or increasing it up to 3,000 square metres when located in ODZ areas.

The new policy lists a number of ODZ areas including quarries and semi industrial areas as "preferred sites" where development can surpass the 3000 square meter limited and other ODZ sites where petrol stations can still be constructed but cannot surpass this limit.  Moreover no development can take place on special areas of conservation, areas of high landscape buildings and other other protected areas.  But development can still take place on agricultural land if this is deemed not to be of "good quality".

The policy renewals announced today included six policies addressing a vacuum in MEPA planning laws, parliamentary secretary for planning Michael Falzon said.

He also announced a new policy regulating ODZ solar farms and building heights for residential homes.

Falzon said the relocation of petrol stations will now be “encouraged” and stricter laws will apply to new stations.

Fuel pumps will be relocated to urban areas and standards raised, MEPA chairman Vince Cassar said, preferably industrial areas and non-agricultural areas.

They will not be allowed in areas of high landscape areas, special areas of conservation and other protected areas.

A new policy on cemetery development will also ban the construction of new cemeteries like the one proposed by Luqa Developments Ltd on land between Attard and Rabat.

The new policy regulates the extension of already existing cemeteries. Not all extensions will be accepted and a number of criteria have been established to guide MEPA when faced with these applications. Hydrological studies will assess the impact on the water table and developers will be asked to take remedial measures.

The policy also sets rules for alternative options for burial like cremation and burial at sea. The aim is to reduce pressures on land use.

When asked whether this policy applied to the sole pending application on MEPA’s backlog, official Raphael Axiak said that this depends at which stage the application is and what planning commitments are applicable.

Asked about the ODZ siting for the American University of Malta, approved yesterday in a heads of agreement between the Jordanian Sadeen Group and the government, Michael Falzon did not exclude  building the campus outside development zones, but said that “alternative sites will be assessed and the impact minimized”.

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