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PA appeals’ tribunal approves billboard in Mgarr rural area

Billboard setup in Mgarr agricultural zone deemed inappropriate by the Planning Authority is approved by the planning review tribunal

James Debono
29 July 2016, 9:07am
The site of the proposed billboard
The site of the proposed billboard
A billboard set in an agricultural zone along Triq Ghajn Tuffieha in Mgarr, which was deemed inappropriate by the Planning Authority’s board, has been approved by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal.

The illuminated billboard will be facing traffic oncoming from iz-Zebbiegh.

In a memo issued in March 2014 the PA’s Environmental Protection Directorate had “objected in principle” against the development of the billboard in this “agricultural area” and the development of a permanent base for the billboard.

The case officer called on the Environment Planning Commission to refuse the application because the proposed billboard did not fall within any of the designated sites indicated on maps in the policy issued in 2006 regulating the location of billboards. 

The applicant argued that the billboard could be permitted because the 2006 policy also allowed new billboards on sites, which are not indicated in maps included in the policy, if these are similar to the designated areas.

But the policy also states that when assessing whether any particular site is suitable for the display of billboards, signs or other forms of outdoor advertising, “the general considerations should be the land use of the area, the scale and massing of existing buildings and whether there are any features of environmental, architectural or historic interest in the vicinity”.

The case officer argued that the proposal was incompatible with the agricultural nature of the area and warned that “any additional billboards outside designated sites would lead to a proliferation of advertising billboards along roads, especially in ODZ areas. The site is also located in an archeologically sensitive area.

The Review tribunal had originally refused the appeal on the basis that the road where the billboard was to be located was an access road and not an arterial road.  

But this decision was overturned by the court of appeal which deemed that the reason given by the tribunal was an invalid one. The permit had to be evaluated on the merit of whether the billboard respected its surroundings or not. 

In its final decision the tribunal concluded that the billboard was acceptable according to the policy approved in 2006 and that Transport Malta had found no objection to the application.

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