The site of the approved development.The site of the approved development.

Labour MP Clayton Bartolo, who represents the government on the Planning Authority board, has defended his U-turn on a fuel station in Magħtab.

In December, the PA board provisionally voted six to two against the controversial proposal. However, when the board met again last week, the project was approved by 10 votes to four, despite the plans remaining unchanged.

Mr Bartolo was one of two board members to change his vote between the two meetings while the six members absent for the December hearing all voted in favour this time.

When contacted, Mr Bartolo said that he changed his mind after the “applicant gave valid reasons against the reasons for refusal” that he and other board members put forward in December and after he reviewed the case officer’s report which recommended approval.

“It transpired that this application is in line with the fuel stations policy. Hence, I voted in favour,” he said.

Opposition representative Ryan Callus voted in favour, having been absent in December

The other board member to flip his vote, Transport Malta official Ivan Tabone, refused to speak to the Times of Malta when contacted about his vote.

“I won’t listen to you. Do not contact me again,” he said before abruptly ending the conversation.

The 3,500-square-metre project by Abel Energy will consist of a fuel station with an electric car-charging station, car wash, shop, car mechanic workshop, stores and a parking area. A kerbside station in Mosta will, in turn, be decommissioned.

The six board members had indicated in December they would refuse the application due to the degradation of the area’s rural characteristics, the close proximity to residents and the take-up of agricultural land on the site between Triq is-Salina and Trejqet l-Arznu, near the T’Alla u Ommu hill, in Naxxar.

PA chairman Vince Cassar, Environment and Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiak, NGO representative Annick Bonello and Naxxar local council representative Joseph Spiteri all stuck to their guns and voted against the project last week.

Opposition representative Ryan Callus voted in favour, having been absent in December.

He had voted against the same development two years ago when it was first rejected by the PA board before an appeals tribunal ordered a reconsideration due to lack of sufficient reasons for refusal.

“This lack of available justification for refusal, a petition by some 140 residents living in Magħtab in favour, the fact that the proposal included the relocation of an existing fuel station in the core of Mosta to the outskirts of Naxxar on a site bound by three streets, led me to decide in favour of the application at the second hearing,” Mr Callus said.

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