Moviment Graffitti has started a symbolic siege on the Planning Authority’s (PA) premises early this morning “to denounce the authority’s assault on our island with massive and useless fuel stations”, the NGO said in a statement.
Last September, the same NGO held another protest at the PA offices objecting to the development of a fuel station in Zejtun. Activists were injured during that protest as the police who arrived at the scene to control what was a peaceful protest were unnecessarily heavy-handed.
More than a year after the authorities promised to review “an obscene Fuel Service Station Policy”, as described by the activists, no changes to this policy have so far been made.
Moviment Graffiti, as well as Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent, have been calling for the suspension of all fuel pump applications until the PA’s policies were reviewed by parliament. Yet, new permits continue to be approved, while the authorities stall on the policy’s review.
“The Environment and Resource Authority (ERA) has submitted its recommendations, on the Minister’s request in April last year, and since November we have been hearing about the imminent publishing by the PA of the revised policy. However, the current policy remains in place, unrevised, and a draft outlining the eventual policy changes has not even been published for consultation,” the NGO said.
The activists insisted they would not allow the PA to take the country for a ride: “Having so many massive fuel stations in a small over-built country like Malta is simply, as we have repeatedly stated, insane. And recent declarations by the Prime Minister about Malta shifting to electric car use in the near future make the insanity of all this even clearer”.
The activists placed three demands:
- Change the Fuel Service Station Policy to one that prohibits new or relocated fuel stations on ODZ, as per ERA’s direction
- Publish the revised Fuel Service Station Policy for public consultation, immediately
- Provide a short timeframe for the implementation of the revised policy after closure of the public consultation period.
“We are convinced that the failure to revise this policy is not due to carelessness or incompetence, but is deliberate and aimed at accommodating certain developers,” the NGO said, pointing to government influence on the Authority.It was a Labour government that introduced the policy on fuels stations that is being so harshly criticised.
While this revision is supposedly underway, new applications for so-called fuel stations continue to be submitted under a defective policy that allows 3,000 square metres fuel stations on natural and agricultural land designated as ODZ.
“There are currently 14 applications for ODZ fuel stations, with four of them approved already, and the others being processed. Together, they constitute a size equal to five times the Floriana Granaries. As can be seen from the completed ODZ fuel stations, these are more akin to shopping-complexes rather than fuel stations,” the NGO said.
It is also clear that the PA’s deplorable behaviour in this case is a refelction of its general approach to development in our country, always favouring the wealthy few at the expense of the rest, according to Moviment Graffiti.
“Whole communities find themselves besieged by senseless development that is wrecking Malta’s quality of life and environment. People have reached the point of dreading to think what Malta will look and feel like in a few years”.