The Planning Authority board has turned down an application for a fuel station outside development zones in Żejtun, which would have been built on agricultural land close to the Bulebel industrial estate.

Read: Controversial Żejtun fuel station plan back on table

The application was turned down by 10 votes against and one in favour.

Elizabeth Ellul, acting chairman, voted in favour, citing the fact that there had been no objection from agricultural and transport authorities.

The meeting, which eventually got underway after a rowdy protest by activists, heard several farmers highlight the agricultural importance of the area and the threats they were constantly facing from development.

Żejtun mayor Doris Abela also spoke against the application, saying there was no benefit for residents and that Bulebel was the last green gap in the wider area. He noted that this application hearing came just months since the community launched its fight against the government's plans to extend factory space.

Environment Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiak noted that as the land was outside development zone, agricultural land needn't be of the highest quality to be protected, and that it had become common to allow good quality land to degrade through disuse as a pretext for development.

The application, which was recommended for refusal, would have taken up some 3,000 square metres of land in a designated area of agricultural importance and a valley protection zone linked to the Wied iż-Żring watercourse.

At a PA hearing last month, the board voted to by eight to two to allow another month for new agricultural studies to be analysed and to clear up uncertainty on the designation of an adjoining road, one of the reasons for the recommended refusal.

The application was the latest to be decided before the conclusion of a pending revision of the controversial Fuel Stations Policy, which is expected to tighten the restrictions on such developments. The application was submitted the same day the revision was announced, January 25.