Material considerations come into play

The Planning Commission held that the case officer was wrong to assert that the proposal would result in a loss of parking 

At issue was a planning application for the extension of a ground floor warehouse. The proposed extension envisages a total floorspace of 238sq.m on both first and second floor (in the case of the second floor, the proposed extension was to be receded from the front building alignment).

In all, the total commercial area would occupy an area of 353sq.m. Incidentally, planning permission to use the ground floor as a garage and construct an overlying floor was issued way back in 2005, however, no construction appears to had been taken in hand.

The premises in question are situated in a mixed-use area touching the Gudja boundaries. Any further development in the said area is regulated by Policy SMGU 03 of the South Malta Local Plan, which policy allows further industrial activity and warehousing.

This implies that no objections were envisaged in terms of the proposed use. Insofar as the proposed building height (9.4 metres), this was indeed considered to be less than what was permitted by policy (namely 10.5 metres).

Hence, the proposal was deemed acceptable also from this point of view.  Moreover, a  Fire Safety and Ventilation Report to show that the building was to be equipped with a reasonable level of safety features in the eventuality of a fire breakout was also submitted. Having said all this, the case officer had highlighted two particular points:

First, the structure on the topmost level occupied a footprint of more than 36sq.m.

This ran counter to Policy P39 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 (DC15) which states that “In the case of properties having a street façade height up to 10.5 metres, a roof structure only, not exceeding 36sq.m and an overall height of 3.4 metres measured externally, will be permitted having a setback in line with the provisions in Policy P35”.

Secondly, the officer noted that the aggregate commercial area was equivalent to 353sq.m, meaning that two parking spaces were required (based on the 1 per 150m² rule applicable for warehouses). Yet, the proposed drawings made no such provision.

Against this background, the case officer recommended that planning permission should be denied since the proposed development would remove the existing parking spaces for the building, hence in conflict with Thematic Objective 10.6 of the Strategic Plan for  Environment and Development Policy. Additionally, the proposal ran counter to policy P39 of DC15 as explained above.

When the case was referred to the Planning Commission for a decision, the latter, however, held that the case officer was wrong to assert that the proposal would result in a loss of parking.

This was due to the fact that the 2005 permission was, in effect, never utilised. Consequently, it was pointless to argue that a parking area was being lost. More so, the Commission noted that the immediate area was characterised by other commitments having receded floors with an area of more than 36sq.m.

According to the Commission, this was a material consideration ought to be considered in its assessment. In the circumstances, the applicant was directed to submit fresh drawings providing a parking area to accommodate two cars as required by policy.

On his part, applicant adhered to this request and permission was issued earlier this week.