Moviment Graffitti is disappointed that although two years ago to the date, on the 25th January 2018, the then Environment Minister José Herrera, had asked for the fuel stations policy to be revised, this has not happened yet. Exactly 737 days have passed since the announcement that this policy, which is hardly four pages long, was going to be revised. During a direct action at the Planning Authority last March, we started counting the passing days on this timer www.pompitimer.org. Little did we know that to this day we would still be counting.
The original 2015 policy had led to a great deal of controversy since it was clear that it could lead to abuse and environmental destruction. This same policy permits the development of new fuel stations which could be as large as 3,000m² and which very often also include other facilities such as a car wash service, a mechanic’s garage, shops, an ATM and a cafeteria. This is nothing but an easy way of obtaining a permit to build a commercial centre on ODZ land.
In the meantime, while the authorities continued to drag their feet, more applications for fuel stations are being submitted. We neither have the space for such massive fuel stations nor the need, especially considering that the authorities have indicated their plan to shift to electric cars.
The draft of the revised policy has already passed through three stages of consultation – the last one closed last November. However, despite this lengthy process, the new policy has yet to see the light of day. According to this draft, many pending applications would be rejected because they would not be in conformity with the new requirements. However, this depends on whether the Planning Authority chooses to decide on these applications before the new policy is approved.
A recent application for a fuel station is that of Siġġiewi. The so called ‘relocation’ of this fuel station is absurd, considering that the new station will be ten times bigger than it is at present (from 160m² to 1600m²) and built on ODZ agricultural land to include a garage, an office, a shop, a car wash and an ATM. This land forms part of Wied Xkora, that the Planning Authority itself acknowledges, needs to be regenerated. We cannot understand how this massive development would in any way lead to the regeneration of this valley.
According to the draft of the new policy, this application would be refused. However, since this is not yet in place, the application is being processed on the basis of the existing policy. Therefore, it is inevitable for us to ask why this revision is taking so long and whether the reason behind all this is to serve the interests of the few. The same thing is happening with regards to the reform of the Rural Policy which was the cause of various controversial developments such as the infamous case of Qala. Despite promises that this will be revised, this reform is taking place behind closed doors by the Dean of the Faculty of Law and we do not know whether any progress has been made, let alone when it will come into effect.
Moviment Graffitti reiterates its stand that our future is threatened because of the irresponsible behaviour of those who are supposed to protect the natural environment and our quality of life but who continue to put the interests of rich developers first as they continue to bury us under the concrete jungle that Malta has become. Therefore, we call once again for the new policy to be approved and implemented with immediate effect.