The Planning Board will tomorrow reconsider a permit for a controversial fuel station in Outside Development Zones, after an appeals tribunal last March revoked the PA board’s decision to refuse the project.
The development is being proposed in a rural hamlet located in ODZ, where development should respect the area’s rural characteristics.
If approved, the proposed fuel station would replace two farmhouses which existed pre-1967 – deemed by the PA to be a “typical example of vernacular architecture in a rural setting”.
The 3,500 square metre project that would include a fuel station, a car wash and a retail outlet, 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.
The proponent is Abel Energy Limited, which is owned by the Malta Mediterranean Hub plc that now runs the former shipbuilding docks in Marsa.
Last August, the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) – which hears appeals against PA decisions – concluded that the PA board did not give sufficient reasons for overturning the recommendation from the Planning Directorate to approve the project. It ordered the board to reconsider the application again.
The case officer had recommended approval as the fuel station was deemed to conform with the policy regulating fuel stations in the ODZ approved in 2015.
The decision was taken after the PA’s deputy chairperson Elizabeth Ellul, who was chairing the meeting instead of chairman Vince Cassar, asked the media and the public to leave the meeting, invoking a clause in the law allowing the board members to deliberate in private.
The vote was however taken in public. The EPRT confirmed the legality of the procedure.
Only three board members voted in favour, including Ellul. Then Government representative Joe Sammut and Opposition representative Ryan Callus were among the four who voted against. The rest abstained.
In its own submissions to the tribunal, the PA argued that the two farmhouses the fuel station would replace merit protection, and should be reused in a manner compatible with the rural character rather than be demolished. The area also includes a number of protected trees.
On his part, applicant Paul Abela – the MMH chairman – argued that his application fulfilled all the criteria set by the policy regulating the relocation of existing fuel stations in residential areas to ODZ localities.