Planning Tribunal probes into sanitary merits via BEN 1 policy

A development application contemplating the introduction of an additional floor over an existing two storey development was approved by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s Environment and Planning Commission.

As a result, a three-storey wall aligning a common yard, which in turn measures 2.58 metres by 1.82 metres, was created. The said yard happens to serve an underlying third party tenement located at ground floor level within the same block.

The owner of the ground floor tenement objected to the said permission and lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, claiming that the permitted construction at second floor should, according to law, be adequately receded from the dividing wall abutting the common yard. In addition, the objector contended that the yard dimensions are already less than what is required by sanitary regulations (in the case of two floors, the minimum yard dimensions are required to be 3 metres by 1.8 metres). 

For his part, applicant contended that the existing building dates prior to 1967 and is thus considered to be 'legally permitted'. Against this background, applicant stated that one may not contest the merits surrounding the existing yard configuration. 

Applicant further maintained that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to decide sanitary matters, in support of which, reference was made to a 1997 landmark case in the names Pater Holdings Co. Ltd. Vs il-Kummissjoni ghall-Kontroll ta' l-Izvilupp decided in 1997, where the then Planning Appeals Board had held that sanitary considerations should be decided by the General services Board as provided in the Code of Police Laws.

In conclusion, the Tribunal observed that the ground floor tenement was being subjected to a reduced level of natural light and ventilation as a result of the proposed strucural interventions. 

For this reason, the Tribunal held that the proposed extension at second floor level was in breach of structure plan policy BEN 1, which specifically aims to safeguard the amenity of neighbouring residential developments.

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