A year and four months of waiting came to a head last weekend with activists laying ‘siege’ to the Planning Authority in a protest of its fuel station policy.
The high-profile protest resulted in a confrontational meeting with ministers, who revealed that the review will be published this month.
Ahead of its publication, Lovin Malta sifted through the noise to find out exactly what the current policy is and what could be proposed.
Why was the policy first introduced?
The main drive behind the policy was to relocate fuel stations out of urban residential areas which were creating operational challengers, increased traffic, and environmental issues.
What did the policy say?
The current policy allows for a the construction of fuel stations on a maximum of 3,000 square metres on ODZ land in certain circumstances, courting significant controversy.
Transport Minister Ian Borg seems to agree that the policy is excessive, telling activists that “just because you have a maximum of 3,000 square metre limit, it does not mean that the PA should just give 3,000 square metre limit”.
The distance limit between fuel stations was also established, however, this was just 500 metres.
Following public outcry over the potential uptake of ODZ land, the PA started the review process of the policy in January 2018.
How many ODZ fuel stations have been approved?
Since the policy was first introduced in 2016, five ODZ fuel stations have been approved, two remain pending, while four are currently suspended.
The five stations are located in Luqa, Burmarrad, Marsaskala, Magħtab and Mġarr.
The owner of the site in Marsascala donated €20,000 to the Labour Party in 2016, according to official documents published by the Electoral Commission.
Two ODZ fuel stations were approved after the review of the policy was announced in January 2018; three have been rejected, while another three have been withdrawn.
There are currently 77 fuel stations across Malta and Gozo. That’s one station in every four kilometres squared or roughly 4,700 cars for every station.
What happened during the review?
The Environment Resources Authority recommended that fuel station footprint is reduced from the current 3,000 to 2,000 square metres.
The distance limit will also have to be at least 1.5 kilometre.
The review was finalised in September, however, it is believed that ERA’s recommendations by the Planning Authority’s Executive Council were ignored.
What has happened since?
After a year and four months of waiting, activists laid a five-day ‘siege’ to the Planning Authority in protest, finding themselves subject to the same inane comments protestors usually receive.
What followed was an impromptu meeting with Ministers Ian Borg and Jose Herrera, where it was announced that the revised policy will be unveiled in April.
Borg said that the policy would satisfy many of the demands made by activists, however, no proposals have been announced.
Moviment Graffiti said it was “still disappointed” after the meeting.
“They’ve been saying since April that it will be published, and they’ve been saying publication was imminent since November,” Andre Callus said. Now it’s March, and we still don’t have anything.”
“The fact that we’ve been waiting a year and four months now is totally scandalous,” he continued.
Graffiti have since launched an online timer which counts the days, minutes and seconds since Herrera pledged to revise the policy back in January 2018.