Planning Tribunal reluctant to probe into ‘civil issues’

The Planning Authority granted planning permission for 'additions and alterations' to a dwelling located in Triq ir-Rokon, Kercem

Following the issuance of the permit, a neighbour lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the permit should be revoked.

In his appeal submissions, the objector made the following arguments:

1.    The permit in question was allegedly issued on the basis of ‘wrongful or even fraudulent information handed over by the applicant’. To reinforce his argument, appellant stated that the courtyard which separates the applicant’s property from that of the neighbour was commonly owned and yet the applicant had given the impression he was the owner;

2.    Moreover, the site featured a number of illegalities which included a  “franka” wall built along the  site periphery;

3.    The applicant had also carried out ‘considerable engineering works in his property without a planning permit, which works have resulted in a change in topography of the site’.

In reply, the Authority held firm to its position, adding that the Tribunal had no competence to entertain revocation requests on the basis of alleged fraudulent information.

The Tribunal asserted that it would not enter into the merits as to who actually owned the courtyard

The case officer went on to explain that according to Article 80 of the Development Planning Act, a request to revoke or modify a permission must be made to the Executive Chairperson who shall in turn prepare a recommendation to the Planning Board as to whether the development permission should be revoked or modified. Such a request could only be entertained in specific circumstances – namely: (i) in the case of fraud, (ii) where the submission of any information, declaration or plan is incorrect or does not reflect the situation on site, (iii) where there is an error on the face of the record or (iv) where public safety is concerned. This meant that a request as aforesaid had to be directed to the Planning Authority and not the Tribunal.

With regard to the alleged illegalities, the Authority rebutted that there was no evidence in support of such allegations, adding that the ‘illegal wall’ had been in existence prior to 1968. On his part, the applicant insisted that the courtyard, which appellant described as common property was ‘in actual fact the sole property of his family’. But even so, the applicant claimed that such disputes rest within the competence of the Civil Courts (and not administrative Tribunals).

In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately observed that it had no jurisdiction in so far as revocation requests were concerned. In addition, the Tribunal reminded the parties that it lacked jurisdiction over matters involving ownership issues. Concluding, the Tribunal highlighted that there was no evidence to show that the applicant had carried out any illegal works as previously alleged. Against this background, the appeal was rejected.