The Planning Authority has approved a new fuel station on virgin agricultural land in Burmarrad, just 450 metres away from the nearest similar facility.

Environmental groups, as well as the St Paul’s Bay local council, have vociferously objected to the plans, which will take up around 2,900 square metres of ODZ land on Triq Burmarrad.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) also said the project was “unacceptable from an environmental point of view, given that the overall development/interventions will commit the entire site and introduce unnecessary and excessive formalisation, and uptake of land at the expense of undeveloped rural land.”

The PA board voted today to approve the project – which will build an entirely new station, rather than relocating an existing one – with three votes against, including the ERA chairman, NGO representative and St Paul’s Bay mayor.

The proposed site falls within a designated Area of Agricultural Value and consists of an abandoned field which was originally used for the cultivation of animal fodder. The site and surrounding fields are along the slopes leading from the Wardija area down to the valley plains of Burmarrad.

However, the site is located adjacent to a designated Area of Containment, which is deemed suitable for fuel stations by planning policy.

The environment impact assessment for the project notes a “shortage of modern fuel stations in the location”, but this has been contested by the local council in its objection, there are already three other fuel stations within the limits of St Paul's Bay, the nearest one just 450 metres away.

Although the Fuel Service Stations Policy states that fuel stations will not be allowed within 500 metres of each other, the planning directorate said this restriction should not be applied because the two stations are separated by a major junction and cannot be accessed through the same carriageway.

The PA board imposed a one-time payment of €50,000 to compensate for the negative impacts of the ODZ development.

Meanwhile, today’s approval will affect the chances of success for a separate application for another fuel station directly adjacent, which is still being assessed.

The directorate said the two applications had a bearing on each other in terms of traffic management and the required distance from each fuel station, such that the outcome of today’s hearing would prejudice the eventual assessment of the other.

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