When ‘overriding reasons’ prevail

Applicant contended that bakeries are synonymous with Hal Qormi

A planning application for the change of use of a licensed auto dealer into a bakery was turned down by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, despite the premises being located in a busy commercial area (namely, Triq l-Imdina, Qormi).

The Authority highlighted that ‘the proposed development would have a deleterious impact on the amenity of the area and of existing adjoining uses’ and  therefore constitutes ‘bad neighbour development’.

In fact, the Commission made reference to policy BEN I (of the Structure Plan) which seeks to protect the amenity of existing uses. Moreover, the Commission observed that policy CG07 of the Central Malta Local Plan would be infringed since a bakery is not specifically listed among the ‘acceptable uses’.

Following the Commission’s decision, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his detailed submissions, the applicant stated that the zone under consideration is heavily ‘committed’ with commercial activity which would not be hypothetically permitted under policy CG07.

The applicant went on to argue that bakeries are ‘synonymous with the locality of Hal Qormi’, describing Qormi as ‘the fulcrum of bakeries’. A ventilation and noise report was submitted in order to show that the proposed bakery would not generate fumes and ‘all the equipment is proposed to work by means of electricity and the use of modem technology’.

The applicant explained that  his  premises were used for ‘the garaging of trucks which were used for the delivery of petroleum’ during the past 40 years. In addition, he submitted documented evidence to attest that a car wash was approved in the immediate vicinity. Concluding, the applicant observed that ‘it is doubtful how much of the area is in fact used for residential purposes’.  

 In reaction, the Authority stood firm against the proposal. The case officer reiterated that a bakery was not compatible with a residential area, adding that existing bakeries were given permission prior to the introduction of the Local Plan. 

In its assessment, the Tribunal however maintained that the area in question was indeed heavily committed with commercial activity. The Tribunal reasoned out that policy CG07 provides that land-uses which are not mentioned in the policy may be exceptionally considered ‘provided there are overriding reasons to locate such uses within these areas’. In this case, the ventilation and noise report indicated that the anticipated noise emissions were within acceptable levels. Against this background, the Tribunal ordered the Authority to issue the relative permit.

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Robert Musumeci is a warranted architect and civil engineer. He also holds a Masters Degree in Conservation and a Law Degree.