Yesterday the Planning Authority gave a permit for yet another petrol station, presumably to help sustain the congestion on our roads. This will take up around 2,900 square metres of open, arable fields. Yesterday it also granted a permit for a large retirement home. This will take up another 4,750 square metres of ODZ land.

So that’s 7,650 square metres of unbuilt ODZ land, roughly the size of a football pitch, signed off for development in one afternoon in this tiny country.

Let’s just consider the petrol station for now. The site is in Burmarrad, opposite what was once a farmers winery. This is now a shopping centre.

Enough is enough

Before the election, I recall the Prime Minister saying that he would entrench environmental protection in the Constitution. That is good, but why not start protecting the countryside right now? No need to wait for amendments to the Constitution, which will take years. The immediate change required is an overhaul of the rural policy of 2015 and all the other policies which are wiping out the countryside. Enough is enough.

Rows of petrol stations can now be built in ODZ areas as long as they are 500 metres distant from one another. This is a crazy policy. The Burmarrad site is close to the St Paul’s Bay roundabout, on the other side of which there are already two established petrol stations which have been there for years.

One is only 450 m distant from this new one in Burmarrad, which is not even in line with the policy. There is another, third petrol station nearby in St Paul’s Bay. Obviously, there is no real need for another one just there. The Planning Authority cannot shrug this off, and then pretend they care about the sustainable use of land.

As I have said elsewhere, repeatedly, if our planners believe that people will not build more ODZ petrol stations than the market can sustain, then they are dreaming, or worse. This might be the case in urban areas, but the property market in ODZ areas is something else. Land speculation is a reality, and this is a route to building in the countryside.

If you need an example, look no further than the shopping centre opposite this proposed petrol station. A farmers winery was arguably an agricultural development. But the site has now been transformed into a run-of-the-mill shopping centre, which is not rural at all.

And so, it goes on, ad infinitum.


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