Tribunal takes note of precedent and GSB decision

A planning application “to subdivide an apartment into two units” was initially turned down by the Sanitary Engineering Officer (whose remit is to assess planning applications from a sanitary point of view and establish whether the proposal is in line with the Code of Police Laws) due to it being in breach of sanitary regulations.

Eventually, the General Services Board (an Appeals Board entrusted with the reconsideration of decisions taken by the Sanitary Engineering Officer)  overruled the Engineer's decision, signalling its approval, since a development having similar configuration was approved within the same complex. Indeed, the General Services Board (GSB) observed that "since the overlying development has been approved in the past, it had no other opinion but to approve the applicant's request".

Notwithstanding approval from the sanitary authorities, MEPA's Environment and Planning  Commission maintained that the proposed alterations would create a single-aspect dwelling unit at the rear without a proper outlook, thus in conflict with Policy 12.1 of Development Control Policy and Design Guidance 2007. In other words, the Commission objected to having a dwelling unit without road frontage with a backyard providing its main source of ventilation. For this reason, the commission refused applicant's request.

In reaction, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that MEPA approved a similar request within the same block. Besides, applicant submitted that the General Services Board had actually endorsed the proposal from a sanitary point of view.

On its part, the Authority kept on insisting that the proposal fails to comply with the sanitary regulations since the dwellings were more than 12 metres deep and would therefore require a backyard. While admitting that it approved a similar permit in October 2004, the Authority insisted that the Tribunal is bound to follow current policies and legislation. Indeed, MEPA's case officer argued that "past decisions should not dictate or infer negatively on current development or as in this case leading to residential development inferior to current standards". But even so, the case officer failed to mention the fact that the standards regulating single-aspect dwellings which were in force in the year 2004 are applicable until this day.

In conclusion, the Tribunal observed that the General Services Board found no objection from a sanitary point of view. At any rate, the Tribunal noted that the Authority raised no issues with respect to the "outlook" when it approved a similar request in 2004. For this reason, the Tribunal ordered MEPA to issue the permit.  

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