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PA’s stamp of approval turns pile of rubble into Zabbar dwelling

The Planning Authority has approved a two-storey dwelling set over a footprint of 141 square metres of land instead of a pile of rubble in Sqaq il-Fata, Zabbar

James Debono
11 July 2016, 3:10pm
Rubble site to become a dwelling site
Rubble site to become a dwelling site
The Planning Authority has approved a two-storey dwelling set over a footprint of 141 square metres of land instead of a pile of rubble in Sqaq il-Fata, Zabbar.

The Environment Planning Commission approved the development after architect Robert Musumeci submitted documents consisting of a declaration by a notary confirming the residential status of the building which was visible in a 1967 Survey Sheet.

Roofless and long-abandoned countryside ruins can be transformed into villas – thanks to the controversial Rural Policy in Design Guidelines approved in 2014.

All that an owner has to do is prove that the structures had served as a dwelling in the past. 

Moreover, according to the policy, any building constructed before 1978 is considered as legal. Therefore any ruin of such buildings may now be reconstructed. 

Curiously, the demolition and complete redevelopment of ‘ruins’ was specifically excluded in the first draft policy regulating rural and ODZ developments issued for public consultation in October 2013. 

A pile of rubble is what is left of the Zabbar farmhouse that collapsed 38 years ago. But to rebuild it the owners had to prove that the building was once used as a residence. 

The PA’s case officer had objected to the permit, insisting that no conclusive evidence had been presented by the time he had prepared the report, to prove the residential status of the building in question. 

Various people living in the vicinity of the pile of rubble have also disputed the veracity of claims that the rural structure was ever inhabited.

The new Environment Resources Authority also objected, arguing that the collapsed building “appears to be an old traditional rural structure characterized by traditional features and was an integral part of the character of the area”. The ERA concluded that a “pre-1978 structure should never be considered as a justification for the development of a 140.8 square metre residence.”

In its decision to approve the reconstruction of the dwelling the EPC also imposed a condition on the developer to plant three Judas trees and to limit the dwelling to a floor space of 200m2 instead of 230m2 as proposed.

The proposed reconstruction of the farmhouse had already been refused by MEPA in 1998 and confirmed by its appeals board two years later. 

The building was abandoned in 1978 and one of the roofs had collapsed six years later, followed by the collapse of one of the rooms. In 1998 the applicant pleaded with the authority to consider her social situation, that of living with her mother in a very small house with a husband and three children. The case officer report also reveals that “some works” were conducted on site “which would make identification of the ruins even more difficult”. 

James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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