Portomaso extension ‘overturned’

A development proposal “to construct apartments, parking, natural sea water swimming pool and a roof garden” adjacent to Portomaso complex (in St Julian’s) was turned down by the MEPA Board after it held that the proposed development goes against a condition imposed in a previous permit to the effect that “no further extensions/enlargements to the Portomaso Project” may be entertained.

The MEPA Board concluded that the proposed 46 apartments would result in "overdevelopment of the site", impinging on a site earmarked for an ecological area. The MEPA Board added that the proposed development would impinge on the Entrenchment Wall which is Scheduled as Grade 1. Even more so, the Board pointed out that there are illegalities on site "which should be remedied before any further permit is issued".

As clearly anticipated, an appeal was filed against the decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, whereby applicant insisted that the condition referred to by the MEPA Board relates to the original permit which was issued way back in 1996. Since then, the Local Plan for the area was issued in 2006, clearly providing for further extensions in the area, superseding any conditions which may have been laid in previous permits. As a matter of fact, a number of planning permits were issued since 1996, allowing for further development within the Hilton precincts. For its part, the Tribunal made reference to the original Hilton Master Plan, in which an area known as 'il-Qaliet Rockpools' was designated as 'Level 1 Area of Ecological Protection and Site of Scientific Importance'. The Tribunal confirmed that no development was being proposed in this area.

More so, it was established that the location subject to appeal was never scheduled. In fact, the Local Plan designated the said area for 'Residential and Low Impact Uses', where residential apartments could be thus accommodated.  

With respect to the alleged illegalities, the Tribunal noted that there is nothing to stop MEPA from proceeding with direct action against the said illegal development. Indeed, Article 86 (2) of the Planning Act provides that the Authority may issue a partial stop notice requiring work to be stopped forthwith only in relation to that part of the development to which the notice applies and not in relation to the whole development. As a final point, the Tribunal maintained that the Authority failed to show how such an illegality would prejudice the outcome of the current application.

Against this background, the Tribunal ordered MEPA to issue the permit. 

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