Tribunal orders MEPA to change the local plan

An outline development application entitled ‘To Demolish existing stores/offices and construct lower and upper basement garages, ground floor stores, 8 flats and 4 penthouses’ in Triq il-Kaccatur, Qormi, was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission, since the corresponding site location qualifies for heavy industrial use in terms of the Local Plan.

Indeed, the Commission stated that "the residential element within the proposed development" is deemed unacceptable from a planning point of view since dwellings are not allowed within Industrial Areas. (Policies QO 08 and CG 15 of the Central Malta Local Plan.) The Commission added that the impacts of the existing and adjoining industrial uses related to noise, vibration and operating times would (should the development be approved) constitute bad neighbour development, thus in conflict with Structure Plan Policy BEN 1 which seeks to protect the amenity of existing and proposed uses.

In order to further support its arguments against the proposed development, the Commission made reference to Policy 14.6 of the Development Control Policy & Design Guidance 2007 which states that, "in areas allocated or zoned for industrial development, the MEPA will not normally grant permission for the change of use of industrial buildings to non industrial use, or for redevelopment of industrial buildings for non industrial use, where it considers that the industrial floor-space should be retained".

In reaction, applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that the immediate precincts feature, "a complete mixture of residential, office and commercial development".  

Applicant further maintained that the garages in the area are used for parking purposes rather than for industrial activity.  

For its part, the Authority reiterated its previous position, insisting that residential development is not considered to be acceptable in an area designated for industrial use, adding that  any existing  residential commitment that took effect prior to the enactment of the Local Plan should be ignored. 

In conclusion, the Tribunal confirmed that the area is designated for industrial use in terms of the Local Plan. That being stated, the Tribunal observed that the 2006 Local Plan ignored the fact that the area features a notable residential commitment, to which end it held that the Local Plan should have never designated the area for industrial use. For this reason, the Tribunal ordered the MEPA to introduce amended provisions in the Local Plan allowing for concurrent residential and "limited" industrial use.

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