Authority ordered to reassess Gozo hotel extension

Authority had ignored applicant’s latest drawings

The owners of a hotel in Gozo filed a planning application to carry out an extension together with various structural alterations. The Planning Authority, however, rejected the application on the following counts:

1. Applicant had failed to submit a valid compliance certificate from the Malta Tourism Authority;

2. The design was in breach of various planning policies, notably Urban Objectives 3 and 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) which promote a context driven approach for the control of building heights within Urban Conservation Areas;

3. The proposal ran counter to policies P35 and P39 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 which require that “building heights are based on a streetscape analysis in order not to create an unacceptable visual impact and blank party walls”;

4. Applicant had also failed to provide sufficient technical evidence to enable an appropriate traffic impact assessment.

Aggrieved by the said decision, applicants lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the application should have been granted planning permission. In their appeal submissions, applicants (now appellants) insisted that a Tourism Compliance Certificate was, in fact, issued by the Malta Tourism Authority in June 2014 and subsequently renewed in June 2017. Applicants therefore contended that “the extension proposed in this development is compliant to Malta Tourism Authority requirements”. Appellants explained that the updated certificate, although submitted “at the latter stages of the processing of the application, namely when the DPA report was issued”, was ignored by the Planning Authority.

It was further highlighted that the Design Advisory Committee was “not averse to the proposed extension”. As far as traffic was concerned, applicants maintained that the scale of the proposed extension was relatively “minor” and adequate parking was already being provided within the site precincts. Concluding, appellants went on to explain that “hotel employees are generally provided transport to and from work organised by the hotel management” adding that “not more than three additional employees will need to be employed by the hotel to cater for the additional guest inflow generated by the extension”.

In reply, the case officer representing the Authority pointed out that the Tourism Policy Compliance Certificate “was not available in due time for the decision”. Moreover, the Tribunal was reminded that the proposed height increase would have an adverse impact on the nearby Urban Conservation Area.

In its assessment, the Tribunal held that it was primarily concerned about the eventual visual impact. The Tribunal observed that, in its decision, the Authority had ignored applicant’s latest drawings which sought to reduce the scale of the development, limiting the proposed extension outside the Urban Conservation Area. In light of the said developments, the Tribunal felt that the Authority should reassess the proposal.

Dr Robert Musumeci is an advocate and a perit with an interest in development planning law

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