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Garage opening in Triq San Trofimu seen incompatible

A Sliema townhouse formed part of a short stretch of townhouses having identical architectural features 

Robert Musumeci
7 July 2017, 7:27am
The Tribunal agreed that the proposed opening would disrupt the aesthetics of an otherwise ‘untouched’ streetscape
The Tribunal agreed that the proposed opening would disrupt the aesthetics of an otherwise ‘untouched’ streetscape
A planning application entitled “To convert existing window on facade to garage door, and division of front room, including change of use from sitting room to garage and hall” was turned down by the Planning Commission after it held that the proposed façade alterations ran counter to Part 7, Sections A and F of the UCA Policy and Design Guidance 1995.

The building in question consists of a typical Sliema townhouse located in Triq San Trofimu. The Commission pointed out that the façade was scheduled as a ‘category B elevation’, adding that the proposed alterations went beyond mere ‘minor alterations’.

Consequently, the proposed designs were considered incompatible with the urban design and environmental characteristics of an Urban Conservation Area. As a final point, the Commission held that the designs would not maintain the visual integrity of the area and so do not comply Policy Urban Objective 4 and Policy UO 2.1 a of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED).

As a reaction, the applicant lodged an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his appeal submissions, the applicant maintained that the creation of a garage was not permitted in buildings which are scheduled as Grade 1 and 2 whereas in his case, the building was neither scheduled as a Grade 1 and nor as Grade 2.

Moreover, it was argued that ‘the creation of this garage would lead to symmetry with the adjacent development and thus is in line with the UCA Policy and Design Guidance 1995 Part 7, Section F’. The applicant also insisted that his intentions were ‘to retain all the decorative, architectural features of the existing town house in order to achieve coherence with the adjoining dwellings’. 

To support his argument, the applicant made express reference to a number of planning permissions where a garage was subsequently introduced on the elevation of a Category B building. In this case, the Heritage Advisory Committee had found no objection to the proposal. Concluding, the applicant argued that an additional garage would contribute to an increase in the provision of off street parking in an area where the demand for such parking is on the increase.

On his part, the case officer contended that the premises subject to this appeal were ‘located immediately opposite the church of the Sacred Heart which is scheduled as Grade 1’. It was reiterated that ‘the townhouse forms part of a short stretch of townhouses having identical architectural features’.

According to the case officer, the introduction of a large opening would therefore disrupt the rhythm of a streetscape which is ‘characterized by a number of townhouses with identical architectural detailing’. Rebutting, the officer held that none of the quoted precedents referred to the same street location.

In its assessment, the Tribunal agreed that the proposed opening would disrupt the aesthetics of an otherwise ‘untouched’ streetscape, resulting also in the elimination of a ‘rusticated pillar’ featuring on the facade corner. Against this background, the Tribunal held that the decision of the Authority was correct.

Dr Musumeci is an advocate and a lawyer with an interest in development planning law

Dr Robert Musumeci is a warranted advocate and a perit. He also holds a Masters Degree in ...
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