Chanting ‘Henn ghalina PA’ (Planning Authority have mercy on us) and ‘Tizfnu ghad-daqqa tan-izviluppaturi’ (You dance to developers’ tune), activists from Moviment Graffitti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent were denied entry into a board meeting discussing yet another application for the development of a fuel station in Zejtun in ODZ land.
Broadcast live on Facebook (see below), a large group of activists converged to the PA’s offices in Floriana were they were blocked from entering the meeting by security personnel. Some activists were visibly manhandled while the activists entered the building. The activists were then forcibly dragged out by the police.
The activists said policies allowing the construction of shopping complexes disguised as petrol pumps would take up over 52,000 square metres of land.
Calling for the suspension of all fuel pump applications until the PA’s policies are reviewed by Parliament, activists said “the PA is showing time and again that it dances to the developers’ tune” by processing more permits to accommodate developers.
The size of pending and approved ODZ fuel stations is seven times that of the Floriana Granaries and the activists said 12 pending applications for ODZ fuel stations have the total size of over 52,000 square metres.
Four ODZ fuel stations with a total size of 12,000 square metres have already been approved.
In a statement, Moviment Graffitti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent said Thursday’s direct action was being held to highlight the fact that, “a full nine months after the authorities’ promise to review an obscene Fuel Service Station Policy, no changes to this policy have been made so far.”
They noted that current policy allows the construction of massive so-called fuel stations on natural and agricultural land designated as Outside Development Zones (ODZ).
“We demand that the processing of all pending ODZ fuel stations applications is suspended until the reviewed policy enters into force.”
They added that the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) presented its review of the policy last April, recommending that the policy should not allow any new or relocated fuel stations on ODZ land.
“However, the PA, instead of immediately taking steps to reform the policy, stalled the process. It was only last July, three months after the ERA review, that the PA opened a public consultation exercise on this matter. This means that, if the revised policy is going to be discussed by a Parliamentary Committee, as is usually the case, a revised policy cannot be approved before October due to summer holidays.”
In the meantime, Moviment Graffitti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent said, “new applications for the development of fuel stations continue being submitted, in addition to the many that are already being processed.”
Citing a previous application in Marsascala, activists said that in May, the owners of an already-approved ODZ fuel station applied to extend their 1,500 square metre fuel station complex by another 1,000 square metres, since under the current policy a fuel station can be as huge as 3,000 square metres.
In the case of the Zejtun fuel station being discussed by the PA board on Thursday, the activists said that the authority “has once again shown that it goes to great lengths to accommodate developers.”
The proposed 3,000 square metre fuel station on agricultural land in Zejtun has been recommended for refusal by the PA case officer himself, since it is not even in line with the current Fuel Service Station Policy.
“However, instead of refusing the application outright during the PA Board meeting of Thursday 2 August, the board deferred the sitting to give the developer more time to justify his case,” the activists said.