Tribunal consents to extra floors in settlement

A 2008 planning application entitled ‘To construct an additional stairwell with lift, an additional residential unit and a penthouse’ was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission.

The Commission held that the corresponding site location qualifies as a rural settlement where buildings higher than two floors may not be permitted. In this case, the designs showed a four-storey block.

In turn, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, maintaining that the current development consists of a first floor maisonette overlying an elevated ground floor maisonette and a semi-basement garage. In addition, applicant indicated that a planning permit for the erection of a block comprising a semi-basement garage, three floors and a penthouse was issued next door.

For its part, the case officer reiterated that the site subject to appeal is located within a Category 2 Rural Settlement, where redevelopment or extensions are allowed provided that any permitted development is limited to two floors and an overlying 20 square metre washroom. The officer added that in the present case, the proposal contemplates two floors 'over and above what is essentially permitted in the policy'. More so, it was highlighted that the proposal failed to cater for sufficient parking spaces.

As regards to the development next door, the case officer argued that the permit was issued before the current Local Plan took effect, adding that the 'predominant height of the streetscape is precisely that equivalent to the present height of the existing building'. 

On this basis, there is no valid justification on sound planning grounds for the proposed increase of two habitable levels above the existing building. As a final point, it was underlined that Article 69(2)(i) of the Environment and Development Planning Act (2010) expressly provides that buildings which legally exceed the official height limitation constitute no 'commitment' and thus have no material bearing in the assessment of new applications. In simple terms, the fact that the adjoining building was approved on floors may not be used as a precedent in support of the current proposal.

For its part, the Environment and Planning Tribunal held that the area cannot be considered as a rural settlement, adding that the site context was anything but vernacular. For this reason the Tribunal ordered MEPA to issue a permit for two additional floors subject to a better design which would eliminate the adjoining unsightly exposed party walls.

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