The policy is set to overturn the existing policy, which was approved in 2015, and was condemned by environmental activists for being too lenient to developers.
The Planning Authority released the new policy today on 30th April – the very last day available after Transport Minister Ian Borg promised the revision by the end of April.
The new policy can be considered a national guide for evaluating applications for the relocation of existing fuel stations which are currently having a negative impact on urban areas.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new policy
1. Specific sites have been earmarked for the relocation of fuel stations
“Designated industrial areas, small and medium enterprise sites, Areas of Containment or Open Storage sites identified in the Open Storage Policy” are all acceptable.
“Other areas designated for development in the local plan excluding Residential Areas and Residential Priority Areas, and Urban Conservation Areas, deemed safe by the authorities” may also be considered.
2. ODZ is still okay though… at least sometimes
“The Authority may also consider areas within ODZ which already have a permitted/legally commitment on site and which are not related to agriculture and/or animal husbandry,” the official policy said. “Such sites will only be considered, if a wider environmental benefit is achieved and the development is compatible with the context of the area. In such cases, the total footprint shall not exceed the existing permitted and legally committed footprint and not exceed 1000m².”
3. Upgrades to stations built on ODZ land cannot exceed their existing footprint, or 1,000 square metres; whichever is larger
“Sites already occupied by permitted fuel stations will be allowed to upgrade,” the Planning Authority said. “Should a permitted fuel station be in an ODZ, upgrading works may not exceed the existing footprint or 1000 square metres, whichever is the larger.”
“The upgrades that will be allowed shall be limited to statutory and regulatory obligations, ancillary facilities and/or the introduction of dispensing facilities for alternative fuels such as CNG, LPG and electric charging stations,” it continued.
“No footprint limit will apply if the permitted fuel station is within the development boundary subject to neighbourhood safety and compatibility.”
4. There are new rules on which stations are eligible for relocation
Transport Malta and the Malta Resources Authority will decide if stations can be relocated, based on issues of “amenity, safety or transport. Existing fuel stations located partially or fully in ODZ shall also not be eligible for relocation”.
The redevelopment and change of use of existing fuel stations located partially or fully in ODZ will not be considered.
5. The height of a proposed fuel station can not exceed seven metres
6. Fuel stations that are inactive for three years will be demolished at the cost of the owner
Any fuel station permitted by the policy which is not used for its permitted purpose for a period of three consecutive years will be demolished at the expense of the owner, and the site returned to an agricultural state.
7. If you have any comments on thew new policy, let the PA know by 14th June
“The Planning Authority invites all interested parties to send in their submissions related to the proposed policy framework,” the PA said.
Representations are to be made in writing and sent to postal address:
Director of Planning,
St Francis Ravelin,
or through the email address: [email protected]
The proposed Fuel Stations Policy may be viewed on the PA’s website www.pa.org.mt/consultation. Submissions must reach the Authority by not later than 14th June 2019.
8. Moviment Graffitti, who strongly pushed for the revision, have said they are ‘cautiously optimistic’, but have called out loopholes in the revision
You can find their full statement below
Moviment Graffitti welcomes the long-awaited review of the Fuel Service Station Policy for public consultation. The organisation is satisfied that the pressure applied through several direct actions, supported by many other NGOs and echoed by much of the public, has had its desired effect. This shows that when people band together, positive change can be achieved.
Moviment Graffitti is cautiously optimistic about the changes proposed, nonetheless noting several points of concern which the organisation shall be raising in its feedback to the Planning Authority (PA) during the public consultation period.
Of particular concern is that although the pending applications are to be decided on the basis of the proposed policy once this comes into effect, there is no mention of the applications due to be heard in the period up to the approval of the new policy. There is no sense in proposing a change while allowing applications already submitted to continue being decided on according to the old policy. It is also worth noting that it may take many, many months before any changes are effected. Therefore, Moviment Graffitti calls on the PA to halt any and all applications for fuel service stations until the proposed policy comes into effect.
The draft revised policy out for review features several improvements over the one currently in effect. The options for take up of ODZ land are significantly more limited. However, some points are of concern. The proposed policy requires no limit on size and no minimum distance between fuel stations, including those in Areas of Containment. It is to be highlighted that Areas of Containment are ODZ sites. This may open the door to massive complexes of commercial services for cars, using the excuse of dispensing fuel to justify the take up of large parcels of land. Moviment Graffitti maintains that fuel stations should be limited in size, with other commercial activities related to car servicing operating under a commercial policy. The current and proposed policies both allow this abuse.
The proposed policy allows for the upgrading of facilities for ancillary services. This seems to open the door for fuel stations to expand for reasons unrelated to the fuel dispensing function, again providing a loophole that can be exploited.
The fact that ODZ land remains available for development, notwithstanding the increased constraints in that regard, continues to devalue the ODZ classification. Moviment Graffitti stresses that ODZ should remain ODZ, and land already committed should not continue to be degraded, but should be returned to its natural state or used for agriculture. A similar loophole has led to the loss of a lot of ODZ land for residential purposes. We can expect the same if the proposed policy goes through. To err is human, to persist is criminal.
Moviment Graffitti urges the public to submit their thoughts to the PA throughout the consultation period to close potential loopholes and stop all pending applications until the new policy comes into effect. Details on this will be provided on our social media in the coming days.