50-metre building depth not allowed

Policy P27 aims to safeguard the integrity of existing gardens and backyards that provide a positive contribution to the urban grain of a neighbourhood

robert_musumeci
Robert Musumeci
1 September 2017, 7:30am
The Planning Authority had to decide whether to give planning permission “to demolish a two storey house and build a block with nine car spaces at semi-basement, six residential apartments and a penthouse”.

The said building is located in Triq il-Madonna tas-Sacro Cuor, Sliema. Following a thorough analysis, the Planning Commission turned down applicant’s request, insisting that the proposed development ran counter to the provisions of policy P27 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 which specifies that ‘the depth of the built footprint as measured from the official alignment shall not be allowed to exceed 30 metres’.

Moreover, the Commission found that the applicant’s designs were in breach of guidance G3 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015. Guidance G3 lays down that ‘dominant defining design considerations of adjacent buildings should be identified and reinterpreted into the new development’.

Reference was also made to Urban Objective 3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development which aims to protect and enhance the character and amenity of urban areas. The designs, according to the Commission, also failed on this count.  As a final point, it was observed that the applicant’s proposal lacked sufficient mitigation measures against noise and vibration ‘from the lift’.

As a reaction, the applicant lodged an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the Commission’s decision should be reversed. In his arguments, the applicant made the following observations:

The 30-metre restriction aims to maintain the integrity of existing gardens and to ensure that the developed buildings in the area will have sufficient lighting and ventilation. In his case, such a restriction bore no relevance since the site bordered a schemed road on its rear.

Contrary to the Authority’s assertions, the proposed elevations ‘matched the elevations directly opposite and to the right together with those proposed for the adjacent development’, the latter having been approved very recently, featuring a modern design with open balconies, glass and aluminium apertures.

As for the lift, the applicant was willing to undertake any mitigation measures as the Tribunal deemed fit.

In reply, the case officer representing the Authority stood firm on the Commission’s decision to reject the permit, reiterating that the applicant’s site was surrounded by existing gardens and green enclaves. The case officer warned that the development as proposed would have a 50 metre building depth, hence way above the stipulated 30 metre limit. More so, the case officer maintained that the façade design was not in keeping with ‘the existing traditional row of townhouses’.

In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately observed that the proposed building depth was in breach of policy. Once again, reference was made to Policy P27 which provides that “in order to safeguard the integrity of existing gardens and backyards that provide a positive contribution to the urban grain of a street, neighbourhood or locality in terms of important green enclaves, the depth of the built footprint as measured from the official building alignment will not be allowed to exceed 30 metres, including any basement floors, unless adjacent existing legal buildings on both sides exceed this limit.’

The Tribunal went on to observe that the said policy applies in the case of both new developments and redevelopments, such as in the case under review. The Tribunal reasoned out that the Commission was therefore justified to reject the permit.

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

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