Nationalist MP Ryan Callus, the opposition’s representative on the Planning Authority (PA) board defended his vote in favour of the ODZ petrol station in Maghtab, claiming that the vote was in line with policies on the relocation of fuel pumps.
Callus had voted against the same development in 2016 but has now changed tack despite the opposition of residents and environmental NGOs. The development is being proposed in a rural hamlet located outside development zones where development has to respect the area’s rural characteristics.
Callus voted in favour along with the government representative Clayton Bartolo and the majority of other PA board members.
When contacted by the Shift Callus defended his vote arguing that application involved the relocation of a petrol station from the core of Mosta to a site at the outskirts of Naxxar on a site bound by three streets, “which I determined was in line with existing fuel station policy.”
The massive 3,500 square metre project includes a fuel station, a car wash and a retail outlet and is being proposed near an intersection on the Telgha t’Alla w’Ommu road, on a triangular-shaped land near Triq l-Arznu, where the main road exits onto Maghtab.
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 voted against. The other board members voted in favour.
A few weeks ago the majority of PA board including the government’s representative had indicated that they would be voting against. Callus was not present in this meeting.
But back in March 2016 the board including Callus and then government representative Joe Sammut had rejected the same proposal on the basis of SPED policy (Strategic Plan for Environment and Development) provisions which aims to protect and enhance the positive qualities of the landscape and the traditional components of the rural landscape.
The planning appeals tribunal, in a decision later confirmed by the Court of Appeal, ordered that the application be reconsidered, ruling that the PA had not explained why the SPED should take precedence over the fuel stations policy.
The proponent is Abel Energy Limited, which is owned by the Malta Mediterranean Hub plc which also runs the former shipbuilding docks in Marsa.