Two shops permitted as long as not interconnected

Approved permit drawings showed a convenience shop – the applicant was thus precluded from using the premises as an ironmongery

The applicant was precluded from using the premises as an ironmongery
The applicant was precluded from using the premises as an ironmongery

A planning application contemplating the change of use of a garage to a shop was approved by the Planning Authority. The premises are located in Triq Sir Arthur Burton, Mosta. Following permit approval, a number of residents living in the neighbourhood lodged an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the permit ran counter to planning policies.

In their appeal, the objectors contended that the applicant was already in possession of a busy commercial outlet located on the opposite side of the road. This meant that the applicant is the owner of two commercial outlets, the total area of which exceeded the maximum allowable area set out in policy CG07 of the relative Local Plan (namely  75 square metres).  In view of this, the objectors maintained that the recent permit was tantamount to an ‘extension’ of an already busy commercial outlet.

The objectors reminded the Tribunal that the Local Plan was designed ‘to improve the urban environment mainly by means of policies that protect the amenity of all residential areas’ adding that any new development should inter alia safeguard residential areas against over development.  It was explained that careful control was needed to prevent nuisance to neighbouring properties and avoid localised traffic congestion within residential areas. Concluding, the appellants highlighted that the applicant’s proposal was a threat to the residential character of the area since a large number of customers residing outside the immediate locality would visit the area.

In reply, the Authority insisted that the permit was issued ‘independently of any other existing use within the area’. The fact that the applicant was in possession of a hardware store on the opposite side of the street carried no material bearing. The Authority underlined that ‘the envisaged impact is commensurate to that of a local small shop.’ As a final remark, it was stated that such facilities tend to reduce the need to travel by encouraging shorter shopping trips, often on foot within residential areas.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the approved permit drawings showed a convenience shop. Consequently, the applicant was precluded from using the premises as an ironmongery. In any case, the new commercial outlet was not linked to any other establishment. The Tribunal went on to observe that the  proposed convenience shop together with the store covered an area of 73 square metres, thus falling  within the allowable 75 square metre limit. Moreover, the new permit was subject to a condition stating ‘that the approved shop shall exclude grocer, supermarket, minimarket, butcher, fishmonger, confectionery and pharmacy.’ After having regard to the aforesaid, the Tribunal concluded that the permit should stay.

Dr Robert Musumeci is a lawyer and architect with an interest in development planning law

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