Marsaxlokk internal development approved

Proposed penthouses were adequately receded, rendering the design envelope acceptable

The Tribunal observed that the site was ‘mostly’ located outside the Urban Conservation Area
The Tribunal observed that the site was ‘mostly’ located outside the Urban Conservation Area

A request for the construction of semi-basement garages and overlying apartments and penthouses was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission. The site in question is partly located within the Urban Conservation Area of Marsaxlokk In its decision, the Commission found that ‘most of the proposed internal residential development falls within the boundary of the Urban Conservation Area.’

Reference was expressly made to policy 3.8B of the Policy And Design Guidance 2007 which essentially prohibits internal residential development within Urban Conservation Areas. Moreover, it was held that the proposed designs fail to provide an adequate frontage onto the road. Additionally, applicant was told that the penthouses were unacceptable due to the fact that the site was located within an Urban Conservation Area.

In furtherance to the said decision, the applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that his case was initially being looked favourably by the Commission members.

Having said that, the members had eventually changed, as a result of which the ‘positive trend for the application was overturned to a negative outcome.’ Applicant went further to stress that his site is not ‘worthy of conservation’. It was moreover highlighted that the proposed three-storey development would ‘not be much higher than the surrounding existing two-floor buildings’.

To address the limited frontage, a self-imposed setback was being proposed to achieve a 7.8 metre facade. Finally, applicant maintained that his site was accessible from a schemed road outside the Urban Conservation Area.

In reply, the Authority held that applicant’s proposal was tantamount to an ‘internal development’, regardless of the fact that access thereto was via a schemed road. The case officer reiterated that the officially aligned frontage fell significantly short of the standard stipulations (namely, 6 metres), despite a concession of not less than 4.2 metres may be afforded in exceptional cases.

The Authority rejected applicant’s suggestions to having a receded frontage. Finally, the case officer pointed out that ‘less than 20% of the site was being provided as open space’ whereas ‘an open space of at least 3 metres was not provided along all of the internal site boundary’ as required by policy.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the site was ‘mostly’ located outside the Urban Conservation Area. The parties were also reminded that Local Plan maps were ‘indicative’ and thus should not be used for ‘interpretation’.

Moreover, the Tribunal highlighted that applicant’s site was bordered with blank high party walls. Even more so, the Tribunal concluded that the proposed penthouses were adequately receded from the front, rendering the design envelope acceptable. After taking regard of the said considerations, the Tribunal came to the conclusion that the proposal was acceptable subject to a modified pedestrian access.

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