MPs point to planning policy in approval of controversial fuel station

The Malta Independent The Malta Independent

MPs Ryan Callus and Clayton Bartolo pointed towards existing planning policies, along with a petition from residents, as reasons behind their approval of the development of controversial fuel station in Maghtab.

The Planning Board, of which Callus and Bartolo form part, had taken a preliminary vote on the application which saw six members vote against and just two in favour. However, on 11 January the same board voted approved the project with nine votes in favour and four against.

No changes were made to the proposal in between the two votes.

Government and Opposition representatives Bartolo and Callus both voted in favour of the project, as did PA deputy chairman Elizabeth Ellul. PA chairman Vince Cassar, ERA chairman Victor Axiak and NGO representative Annick Bonello were among those opposed.

Residents, who have argued over the years that the application runs counter to Rural Objective 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development and would prove detrimental to the surrounding environment, have since indicated to the newsroom their intention to appeal the decision.

"Following the PA board meeting held on 11 January during which the applicant gave valid reasons against the reasons for refusal, and a further review of the DPA Report which was recommending a GRANT opinion on this application, it transpired that this application is in line with the Fuel Stations Policy. Hence I voted in favour," Bartolo told The Malta Independent yesterday.

Callus, on the other hand, explained that "the planning tribunal determined that in its initial decision the Board had not provided sufficient reasons for refusal. This lack of available justification for refusal, a petition by some 140 residents living in Maghtab in favour, the fact that the proposal included the relocation of an existing fuel station in the core of Mosta to a site on the outskirts of Naxxar on a site bound by three streets, led me to decide in favour of the application."

Asked whether he believed that planning policies needed to be discussed further at parliamentary level he said that the environment and development parliamentary committee has a pending request for a discussion on this matter.

"We will participate in the discussions and propose ways how this can be improved," he explained.

Callus was also asked whether actions such as these placed doubt upon the PN's supposed commitment to protecting the environment.

He said that "as a board member of the Planning Authority, I am duty bound to respect existing planning policies for consistency's sake.

 The original application was for full development permission for the relocation of an existing fuel station in Mosta with a new Fuel Station in Salina road, located outside the limits for development of Naxxar, which includes: car washing facility, ancillary Class 4B retail facilities and underlying garages as a replacement of two existing dilapidated farmhouses and their ground

The application was originally filed back in 2014, but had been turned down by the Planning Authority before. The applicant then filed an appeal before the Environment Planning and Review Tribunal, who ordered that the application go back before the Planning Authority Bard, resulting in this latest decision.




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