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Animal hospital kiosk awaits Lands Authority’s permission

Planning Authority suspends application for 50 sq.m kiosk next to animal hospital in Ta’ Qali to allow the applicant to seek approval from the Lands Authority

James Debono
27 September 2017, 2:57pm
The Planning Authority suspended an application for a 50 sq.m kiosk next to the animal hospital in Ta’ Qali to allow the applicant to seek approval from the Lands Authority

The application was recommended for refusal by the Planning Directorate because it lacked the consent of the Lands Authority. 

The kiosk is being proposed by APH Ltd which also owns the adjacent hospital and will include an outside seating area partly covered by a canopy, all set on public land in the animal hospital grounds.  

According to planning regulations the applicant has to certify that the owner of the land has granted his consent for the proposed works. 

In this particular case the Planning Directorate requested the submission of a no objection from the Lands Authority. This document was never submitted according to the case officer report.

The kiosk is being proposed outside development zones where such development is not allowed unless there is a valid justification that it cannot be located within urban areas. 

The developer’s architect justified the proposal on grounds that the kiosk will complement other activities in the immediate vicinity of the hospital, which include family attractions in the Ta’ Qali park, the farmers’ market and the animal hospital itself.  The architect argued that the proposed kiosk would be providing a better service both to the hospital users and the surrounding activities.

But the Planning Directorate is insisting that the catering establishment can be located within the animal hospital building and not, as proposed, on presently open space. 

The dimensions of the kiosk were also found to be not in line with existing regulations relating to kiosks which require that kiosks are not larger than 20sqm.   Moreover regulations approved in 2015 forbid new kiosks from having outside seating areas, which are only allowed in front of restaurants.

The Environment and Resources Authority had  objected to the application which it said “will result in the loss of over 200m2 of undeveloped land, through the construction of a kiosk and hard landscaping, including grass blocks”.  

Moreover, according to the ERA the construction of such facilities would undermine the rural characteristics of the area through the introduction of recreational and commercial activities such as this one. The ERA also warned that the approval of this application may also create a precedent for further interventions on surrounding ODZ land.  

The Malta Tourism Authority had also pointed out that such a development should be allowed only if it is deemed to benefit the community. 

“The kiosk should only be allowed if the authority in charge of animal welfare agrees with the proposal.” 

The application has been presented by the company, which operates the hospital, which stands in the vicinity of the farmers’ market and the picnic area of Ta’ Qali. 

The application also foresees the planting of a number of olive trees. 

The 24-hour centre, which was built with €420,000 of public funds, was opened in October 2010. The centre closed its doors when the contract with the original service provider expired and in September 2015 the Secretariat for Animal Welfare had announced APH Ltd was taking over following a public call.  When asked whether the tender foresaw the development of a kiosk a spokesperson for parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes told MaltaToday that the tender had been issued by the Lands Department. APH Ltd did not reply to questions sent by MaltaToday. 

In the application APH Ltd declared that it is not the sole owner of the site but it had notified the owner of its intention to apply and that the owner had granted consent to the proposal.

How Lands Authority has a say in planning applications:

The Lands Authority has a crucial role in determining planning applications set on public land.  

According to a circular issued in 2016, all planning applications on public land have to be accompanied by a clearance from the Lands Authority stating that it finds “no objection in principle” to the submission of an application on the site in question for the proposed development. 

At this stage the Lands Authority can object to the application and abort it. 

The Lands Authority’s own website reminds applicants that prior to the submission of a planning application for any proposal on government property, the applicant is obliged to send electronically the full package of drawings and related details to the authority for its clearance.

The circular has closed a loophole in the planning system through which developers could apply on public land by simply informing the government of their intention to present a planning application with the government having the final decision on whether the development proceeds or not following the conclusion of the planning process.

But the introduction of the new system has given the government a say on determining controversial applications.

Recently MaltaToday revealed that the Lands Authority had controversially issued its consent for the development of the new Chiswick House School in an open field owned by the State in Pembroke, which was later opposed by Environment Minister Jose Herrera.  

The Lands Authority has not replied to MaltaToday’s questions on whether it had issued its consent for a private beach and a 346 vehicle carpark on a disused public road which formed part of the old coast road.

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