Environmental NGO Flimkien Għall-Ambjent Aħjar has filed an official objection to the relocation of a petrol station near to a protected valley in Siġġiewi.
The site lies on the Siggiewi bypass, surrounded by terraced fields, and FAA maintains that the very fact that this ridge-edge site is in an Out of Development Zone (ODZ) should automatically disqualify it.
The site is also part of Wied Xkora, which the Planning Authority itself noted needs to be part of a regeneration policy of the area.
The policy to relocate urban fuel stations still exists, however, it states that they should be moved to industrial or brownfield sites in order to protect the rural status of ODZ sites.
In spite of a previous soil report which stated that the site has little agricultural value, this site has been cultivated and a harvest produced in recent months.
Additionally, as can be seen from aerial photos, the surrounding fields are still being worked, therefore the increase in air pollution generated by the fuel station will increase the rate of lead pollution in the soil, possibly rendering crops grown there unfit for human and animal consumption, FAA said.
“In addition to being ODZ, the fuel station entry and exit will also cut into the country walking promenade, making it dangerous for pedestrians to use it due to cars entering and exiting, they continued. “It will also increase traffic congestion, noise and air pollution, parking problems and other nuisances, intruding on what was once an idyllic, quiet, rural and peaceful community – one of the last few remaining on the archipelago.”
Manoeuvrability into and out of the bypass (Mons Mikiel Azzopardi Str) would be seriously compromised as it is a two-lane bypass and as such, any car slowing down to access or exit the station would seriously disrupt the flow of traffic.
This relocation cannot be justified in view of Malta’s National transport Policy which declares that Malta is to turn to electric vehicles, thereby reducing the need for fuel stations, FAA said.
Furthermore, there can be no possible justification for this petrol station as three others already exist within a 5-minute drive, one in Zebbug and two in Qormi, they concluded.
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Additionally, FAA said that the mentioned site lies within the Wied Xkora 100m water safeguard area in the middle of the 300m water buffer zone mentioned in the Local Plan. It is lying practically above one of the Ta’ Kandja water galleries which means that in the event of a fuel spillage, there is a high risk of pollution of the water gallery.
This is a high-volume water catchment area, as it channels water from Triq Brandin and surroundings to the valley of Wied Xkora. It is literally 180mtr away from the heart of Wied Xkora, lying on purely agricultural land and cementification and soil-sealing of these fields will further contribute to Malta’s lack of natural water sources.
This project would have a severe adverse impact on the surrounding ODZ landscape, not just in the extent of the take-up of land, but the design of the structure, its large canopy, disproportionate in height and extent, as well as the stark colour scheme of the structure.
Similarly, it does not complement the neighbourhood houses across the street which blend into the context.
The proposed site is just across the road from a Dar Tal Providenza Community Live-In Home for people with special needs and less than 150mtr from a recreational area known as Wesgħat il-Palazz, therefore the fuel station will generate air pollution in an area frequented by a vulnerable population.
The proposed development would qualify for an EIA which has not been carried out.
The fuel station relocation policy stipulates that the relocation site cannot be within 15m of human habitation, however the proposed site is barely 13m from the residences across the road.
Concluding, FAA considerd that there is no valid justification for the further loss of undeveloped rural land and associated environmental impacts to accommodate the development of a significantly enlarged fuel station beyond the development zone boundary. The NGO is also concerned regarding the cumulative environmental impact caused by the numerous ad hoc proposals for petrol stations currently being proposed on ODZ land.