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