Tribunal gives green light to swimming pools

A 2012 planning application for the construction of four swimming pools was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission after it was held that the pools were to be located outside the boundary of a Category 1 Settlement and within a scheduled Level 4 Area of Ecological Importance.

In its conclusions, the Commission underlined that the proposed swimming pools would "compromise the protection and conservation status of a scheduled area", in conflict with Objective 1 of Circular PA1/00 (the policy which regulates ODZ swimming pools and militates against the development of swimming pools "if they will adversely affect valleys and sites of ecological importance".

In reaction, the applicant lodged an appeal against the said decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, stating that the pools were very small in size and could be safely compared to a Jacuzzi. Moreover, the applicant maintained that each pool was to be contained within the perimeter of a committed cartilage (the boundary of a villa) and not a valley as alleged by the Authority. Moreover, the applicant observed that the pools were located at a distance of only three metres from the rear part of the respective constructed villas. Having said that, the applicant requested the Tribunal to take note of several structures, not least a number of agricultural reservoirs which had been built in the valley.

In turn, the Authority observed that the site under review was granted permission for the demolition of an ODZ farmhouse and the subsequent construction of four two-storey residential units (including basement garages) on condition that no construction took place within the scheduled belt for Wied Ghollieqa. For this reason, the Authority kept on insisting that the area where the pools were proposed should be retained in soil and soft landscaping. In support of his argument, the case officer made reference to current policy, pointing out that ODZ pools "must not adversely affect valleys and/or sites of ecological importance".

On a preliminary note, the Tribunal confirmed that the proposed underground pool structures were located within a scheduled buffer zone. Nonetheless, the Tribunal observed that the proposed pools should be located within the perimeter of a committed curtilage, which would serve as a buffer to the distant valley. The Tribunal maintained that the pools were to be enclosed by a low-lying rubble wall and therefore screened completely from public view.

Against this background, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the applicant and ordered MEPA to issue the permit subject to fresh designs showing a narrow access around the pool.

[email protected]