Din l-Art Helwa and the Gaia Foundation submit appeal against permit granted for large petrol station at Buqana, l/o Rabat

18th October 2007
– The NGOs Din l-Art Helwa and the Gaia Foundation have submitted an appeal against the permit recently granted to build a petrol station at Buqana, l/o Rabat (PA 01141/06). While the NGOs agree with the current strategy to phase out kerb-side pumps for safety and traffic management reasons, this strategy does not enable Mepa to go against Structure Plan policies which explicitly forbid new commercial developments to be located in areas which lie outside the development zone.

No subject plan dealing with the strategy of relocating kerb-side pumps has been put out for public consultation, and such applications are presently being dealt with on a case-by-case basis and setting dangerous planning precedents, said the NGOs. Din l-Art Helwa and the Gaia Foundation request that no similar applications should be considered until a suitable subject plan for the phasing out of kerb-side pumps is formulated.

The site at Buqana lies in an area which has been designated by Mepa as an area outside the development zone, an area of high landscape value, a groundwater protection zone, and an area of high agricultural value. Fields in the surrounding area are used for agricultural purposes, including the cultivation of fodder, vines and citrus trees, and the site in question was also used for agriculture until last year. The site is linked to the Chadwick Lakes valley, as it is located in the valley systems found below Rabat, Mdina, Mtarfa and Dwejra. The availability of water in the area makes this a location well-suited for agriculture. The choice of this site for a large petrol station goes against the agro-touristic potential of the area, said the NGOs.

Din l-Art Helwa and the Gaia Foundation believe that this development creates a dangerous precedent for future applications. Mepa can only consider the relocation of petrol stations to areas which are suitable from a planning and environmental point of view, which is clearly not the case in this instance, said the NGOs.