Bee breeding station sanctioned without proposed extensions

A planning application seeking the sanctioning of ‘changes’ and ‘proposed additions’ to an ‘approved bee breeding station’ was submitted to the Planning Authority for assessment

A planning application seeking the sanctioning of ‘changes’ and ‘proposed additions’ to an ‘approved bee breeding station’ was submitted to the Planning Authority for assessment. Moreover, the application included a proposed underground reservoir and cesspit. The site lies in an area known as Wied Musa outside the development zone of Mellieha. Following a negative recommendation from the case officer, the proposal was rejected on the following grounds:

1 The proposed additions ran counter to the provisions of policy 3.4A of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance (RPDG) 2014 in that the area of the approved bee-breeding station had already exceeded 25sq.m. which was the maximum area allowed by policy;

2 The applicant did not have the minimum number of bee colonies to be entitled for such development and the proposal was therefore not in line with the Thematic Objective 1 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development, which limits the land take up for uses which are not necessary or legitimate in rural areas;

3 The proposal ran counter to Rural Objectives 1, 3, and 4 which are designed to control the location and design of rural development, as well as the cumulative effect of such development;

4 The site was located within a scheduled Area of High Landscape Value (AHL V) & Level 3 Area of Ecological Importance (AEI). The proposed additions would therefore affect the natural characteristics of this scheduled area, hence in breach of policies 1.2G & 1.2H of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance (RPDG) 2014;

5 The proposal ran counter to policy NWCO 13 of the North West Local Plan for the protection of garigue land;

6 The site was characterised by illegal development, namely the ‘deposition of soil on garigue’. As a matter of fact, applicant had been served with an enforcement to that effect.

Nevertheless, applicant decided to appeal the above decision before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his appeal submissions, applicant (now, appellant) contended that, except for the interventions which were identified for sanctioning, the building was otherwise a ‘legal and legitimate construction covered by the relevant permits’. Appellant maintained that ‘the changes being requested to be sanctioned are not some blatant or capricious increase in area but merely a slight change in configuration of the building alignment which has resulted in a slight increase in area’. Appellant went on to explain that the number of bee colonies was set to increase, insisting that it was ‘incomprehensible how a mere increase of 25sq.m. will contribute so negatively and adverse impacts on the natural and scenic attributes of the site’.

For his part, the case officer explained that, apart from the bee breeding station, the proposed drawings showed the construction of an additional garage having an area of 34sq.m. together with a paved area covering 56sq.m., a water reservoir totalling a capacity of 56cu.m. and an underground cesspit having a similar volume. The proposal, according to the case officer, would thus take up more land from a scheduled Area of Ecological Importance and High Landscape Value. The Tribunal was also reminded that the Environment and Resources Authority had raised concern.

In its assessment, the Tribunal confirmed that appellant was indeed a registered bee keeper. It was further observed that the bee keeping area had increased from 59sq.m (namely, the area approved in previous permit) to 65sq.m. With regard to the proposed underground reservoir and cesspit, the Tribunal found no objection. Notwithstanding, the Tribunal felt that the proposed garage and adjacent paved areas were not justified. Against this background, the Tribunal ordered the Authority to issue the permit once applicant submits fresh drawings showing the removal of the garage structure and the paved area.