Nine-square metre extension refused

The Planning Commission had rejected a planning application ‘to sanction an agricultural store’ in a field located at Tas-Simar in Qala, Gozo

The Planning Commission had rejected a planning application ‘to sanction an agricultural store’ in a field located at Tas-Simar in Qala, Gozo. Applicant was already in possession of two rooms, occupying an aggregate area of 25sq.m storage. The 9sq.m extension would bring the total area to 34sq.m.

In its decision, the Commission noted that applicant was already in possession of other structures/buildings located in other fields which were registered on his name whereas a number of ‘cages’ were placed on site without prior authorisation. According to the Commission, the interventions were not deemed to be ‘essential to the need of agriculture’. Reference was also made to a number of low walled enclosures which were built illegally. Concluding, the Commission underlined that the proposal ran counter to Structure Plan Policies AHF5, SET11, BEN 5, RCO 2 and RCO 4 and went on to reject applicant’s proposal.

Aggrieved by the said decision, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the Commission’s decision should be revoked. In his appeal, appellant submitted that he was a genuine farmer and made the following arguments:

The rooms in his possession were small and built over 100 years before;

These rooms were not structurally safe;

He cultivated circa 17 tumoli of arable land;

The extension was ‘necessary’ for the storage of ‘tools and equipment’;

The ‘unauthorised cages’ were to be considered as legitimate interventions since these were used to ‘raise birds’;

The low-walled enclosures served as a ‘shelter for bird watching’ and did not require planning permission.

In reply, the case officer reiterated that appellant was in possession of a number of rooms which were ‘either totally or partially constructed in stone’. After noting that applicant was in possession of 17 tumoli of land, the officer said that, according to current policies, appellant was thus entitled to a maximum storage space of 20sq.m.

The case officer went on to emphasise that ‘the presence of an agriculture store which is not structurally sound is not an excuse for constructing additional agricultural stores’, adding that preference should invariably be given to restoring the old stores, which, in this case, already occupied an area in excess of 20sq.m. Moreover, the roofs of the existing stores were surrounded by a 1.2m high unsightly fence placed along the periphery. As to the cages, the Authority rebutted that these were ‘not used for agricultural purposes and were visually unsightly and incompatible with the rural setting’. On this basis, the case officer insisted that the appeal should be rejected.

In its assessment, the Tribunal conceded that applicant was indeed in possession of 17 tumoli of land and consequently he was entitled to 20sq.m of storage. Nevertheless, the Tribunal went on to observe that appellant was already in possession of two rooms having an aggregate footprint of 25sq.m. The Tribunal concluded that granting additional storage space (which in this case adds up to a total area of 35sq.m) would be tantamount to breaching current planning policies. On this basis, the appeal was rejected.