En­vi­ron­ment, mo­torists and ru­ral land­scape all at risk if Magħtab petrol sta­tion gets ap­proved

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Ju­lian Bon­nici

The pro­posed ser­vice sta­tion on Salina Road will cause se­vere en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age and pose a risk to mo­torists, whilst also de­stroy­ing the ru­ral char­ac­ter of the area, res­i­dents told The Malta In­de­pen­dent at a site visit con­ducted by the En­vi­ron­ment and Plan­ning Re­view Tri­bunal.

The ap­pli­ca­tion, which was re­jected by the Plan­ning Author­ity last March, would al­low the de­mo­li­tion of ex­ist­ing build­ings and the re­lo­ca­tion of an ex­ist­ing ser­vice sta­tion in Mosta to Salina Road, in­clud­ing a car-wash area, an­cil­lary re­tail fa­cil­i­ties and un­der­ly­ing garages.

The project, headed by Paul Abela of Abel En­ergy, would be on a tri­an­gu­lar-shaped plot of land in Salina Road and Arznu Street, Naxxar, near the T’Alla u Ommu hill, cov­er­ing an area of 3,593 square me­tres. The res­i­dents quoted from part of the Cen­tral Malta Lo­cal Plan, which states that the set­tle­ments of Magħtab and Bid­nija “are des­ig­nated as Cat­e­gory 2 Ru­ral Set­tle­ments lo­cated within a wider ru­ral area that should be con­served, con­sol­i­dated and re­ha­bil­i­tated while pro­tect­ing their ru­ral char­ac­ter”.

This form of clas­si­fi­ca­tion only al­lows “lim­ited res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment which does not ex­ceed 200 square me­tres, lim­ited re­tail de­vel­op­ment which does not ex­ceed 50 square me­tres and agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment,” the res­i­dents said.

The fact that the par­tic­u­lar area is com­posed of oc­ca­sional farm­houses and acres of fields causes con­cern to the res­i­dents, who feel that it is one of the few un­touched ar­eas in the cen­tre of Malta.

Ob­jec­tors ar­gue that the lo­cal plan pol­icy over-ruled the re­cent pol­icy al­low­ing the re-lo­ca­tion of ser­vice sta­tions to ODZ ar­eas.

Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika vice chair­man Carmel Ca­co­pardo, who rep­re­sents the ob­jec­tors, was also present at the site.

Res­i­dents pointed out the po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age the ser­vice sta­tion could cre­ate. The area is al­ready sus­cep­ti­ble to flood­ing and res­i­dents fear that the chem­i­cal waste that the project would cre­ate would flow into Maghtab Val­ley.

The ser­vice sta­tion would also cre­ate a dan­ger­ous hazard to driv­ers along Salina Road. Res­i­dents pointed out that there have been eight crashes on this par­tic­u­lar stretch of road in the last three years, with a driver be­ing killed in one of them, im­ply­ing that the traf­fic con­ges­tion pro­duced by the ser­vice sta­tion could have the po­ten­tial to be more dan­ger­ous to mo­torists.

An­other mem­ber of the com­mu­nity, who lives di­rectly op­po­site the pro­posed site, said that she and her chil­dren al­ready ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere noise pol­lu­tion due to cars speed­ing along the road. She went on to say that the light­ing and noise that will em­anate from the site will add sig­nif­i­cantly to the bur­den they al­ready ex­pe­ri­ence. The is­sue of noise pol­lu­tion was echoed by all the res­i­dents present, with a num­ber point­ing out that no stud­ies have been car­ried out on the sub­ject.

It was also con­sid­ered strik­ing that the area should be ear­marked for the de­vel­op­ment of a ser­vice sta­tion, since there are al­ready four in the area – at St Paul’s Bay, Għargħur, Naxxar and Bur­mar­rad.

A to­tal of 116 res­i­dents and farm­ers in the area have signed a pe­ti­tion op­pos­ing its con­struc­tion. The ap­peal will be pre­sented to the En­vi­ron­ment and Plan­ning Re­view Tri­bunal on 15 De­cem­ber.

Res­i­dents and ar­chi­tects dis­cussing the petrol sta­tion plans ear­lier this week Photo: Jonathan Borg

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