The National Infrastructures Ministry has set April 2 as the deadline for all gas stations in Israel to make self-service pumps available to customers at a reduction in price of 11 agorot per liter. Stations failing to provide a self-service option will still have to sell gasoline at the self-service price. Last week, the National Council for Planning and Construction approved an amendment to the national planning document governing petrol filling stations, to allow construction of compact gas stations. "The construction of small gas stations will reinforce competition in the fuel market and lead to a drop in fuel prices," said Eli Ronen, director general of the National Infrastructures Ministry. Small gas stations - with up to two pumps (four nozzles) and a simple shelter - are proving to be a success abroad, and their construction in Israel "would greatly contribute ... to opening the market to new companies and bring about a wider and better distribution of filling stations, more efficiently serving the consumer public," the Ministry said. The smaller format would consume a minimum amount of land and be relatively inexpensive to construct, the ministry added. Sonol-Kat, set up in April 2005 to specialize in the small gas stations, welcomed the news, predicting that more than a hundred such stations would pop up in Israel within the next 10 years. "There will be no more gigantic gas stations in city centers, but rather very small stations with exceptional environmental design and maximum safety protection," said Sonol-Kat CEO David Hayon, adding that the permit procedure would also be much shorter than with traditional gas stations. "The decision sows the first seeds of the true revolution expected in the fuel market in the coming years," he said. The mini-stations would be exempt from requirements to include water stands, air pressure equipment, auto care retail, and public services, he noted. Sonol-Kat inherited assets of its predecessor Delkat, set up in 2000 but frozen in 2002 due to delays in passing the amendment to the National Outline Plan 18 on petrol filling stations. Momentum was renewed with acceptance in principle of the change by the National Council in May 2004. The amendment also eases conditions for existing large-format gas stations, removing obstacles that had prevented the renovation and improvement of stations. "The aim of the upgrade is to enable stations existing in any event to begin using advanced technologies to make safety and environmental improvements and to allow maximum exploitation of the station's surface area alongside more efficient organization of station components ... without expanding the stations or adding new uses," the Ministry said.