Warehouse not allowed since area is residential

The Planning Authority has a decision to make: whether or not to sanction a garage turned into a warehouse after the applicany admitted that he had no planning permission

The Planning Authority had to decide whether to sanction a garage turned into a warehouse in Triq il-Vittmi tal-Gwerra, Birkirkara after the applicant admitted that he had no planning permission. Following a thorough assessment, the applicant’s request was rejected. To support its decision, the Planning Commission highlighted that ‘the proposed development runs counter to the provisions of policy CG 07 of the Central Malta Local Plan where warehousing is not one of the permitted uses within residential areas’.

Reference was also made to SPED Urban Objective 3.5 which aims ‘to protect and enhance the character and amenity of urban areas.’  Finally, the Commission held that the applicant’s proposal was in breach of guidance G9 (Parking Areas) and G30 (Industrial Development) since the proposed development failed to include a loading/unloading bay.

The reversing of large vehicles from the street into warehouses poses a risk to pedestrian safety

As a reaction, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his submissions, the applicant admitted that his request was not in line with the Local Plan. Nevertheless, the applicant insisted that ‘the general nature of the character and amenity of the area in the whole street is made up of this type of garage with two overlying levels of the back walls of the garages which are reached from the upper street’, adding that ‘the buildings on the other side of the street form part of the commercial developments.’

As to the loading and unloading concerns, the applicant rebutted that  ‘the intended use of the premises is warehousing of the food products’ which is imported and stored within his premises. Therefore, vehicles are envisaged ‘to unload daily deliveries only once’, hence ‘no heavy traffic’ was envisaged.  

In reply, the case officer representing the Authority stood firm, reiterating that ‘the overall impact brought by the use of heavy vehicles, manoeuvring, loading and unloading’ was unacceptable within residential areas.  Specific reference was made to paragraph 13.1.19 of the Central Malta Local Plan which states that warehouse development within residential areas causes a number of negative impacts by reason of traffic generation and the obstruction to the free flow of traffic especially during loading/unloading of goods.

The Tribunal was reminded that on-street parking would be drastically reduced were the permit to be issued. In addition, ‘the reversing of large vehicles from the street into warehouses’, according to the case officer, poses a risk to pedestrian safety. In conclusion, the officer warned that there was the possibility of fire hazards to overlying residences once combustible goods were to be stored within the warehouse.

For its part, the Tribunal noted that land-uses falling outside those mentioned in the Local Plan could be considered favourably on condition that there are ‘overriding reasons to locate such uses within residential areas’. Nevertheless, the Tribunal concluded that, in this case, the premises were located within an area which was predominantly characterized by residential use.  For this reason, the Tribunal proceeded to turn down the appeal.


Dr Musumeci is an advocate and architect with an interest in development planning law

[email protected]