Rural store refused due to ‘unsustainable’ location

The site location was not considered ‘sustainable’ in terms of it being considerably distant from the remaining holdings

The former Environment Protection Department had noted that the site location was not environmentally sensitive
The former Environment Protection Department had noted that the site location was not environmentally sensitive

A development application entitled “To construct agricultural store in agricultural field” was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission. The field is located outside the development zone of Ghasri. To support its decision, the Commission said that the proposed store was considered as ‘unjustified’ in this location since the field measured 104 square metres. The Commission made express reference to Policy 2.5A (criteria 10) and Rural Objective 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development which seeks “to protect the most sensitive landscapes and aim at guiding the control of location of development within the landscape.”

As anticipated, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal against the decision. The applicant insisted that his proposal was “within the legal framework and sensitive to environmental and planning issues.” The appellant pointed out that the land in question was chosen for its strategic location due to the fact that it was deemed as “most appropriate” in terms of visual impact. The applicant went on to explain that the Commission had indeed observed that there were other similar structures “around the site”.

The Tribunal was reminded that the applicant was in possession of eight tumoli of agricultural land and the proposed agricultural store was to be centrally located with a view to serve the remaining holdings. Moreover, it was highlighted that the former Environment Protection Department had noted that the site location was not environmentally sensitive.

In reply, the Authority reiterated that the proposal was against policy 2.5A (criteria 10) of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance 2014 and Rural Objective 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development. Contrary to what the applicant tried to portray, the site was, according to the case officer, “highly visible from both the arterial road and from the surroundings.” The officer went further to argue that the applicant’s proposal “was meant to demarcate the site from third party properties”. 

It was underlined that the Authority incessantly objects to having “agricultural rooms on fragmented small plots of land” as this would result in a cumulative adverse impact on an area’s overall rural character. In addition, the Authority highlighted that it was preoccupied with the chosen location rather than the size of the store. In conclusion, it was noted that the Agriculture Advisory Committee had recommended “an agricultural store should not be located within a small parcel of land but on the applicant’s largest holding”.

In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately noted that the Rural Policy Design Guidance was designed to promote ‘farming facilities intended for sustainable farming’. In this case, it was clear that the site location was not considered ‘sustainable’ in terms of it being considerably distant from the remaining holdings. For this reason, the Tribunal maintained that the Authority was correct in its decision.

Dr Robert Musumeci is an advocate and perit with an interest in development planning law

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