Green light to redevelopment in Category 3 Settlement

AT's planning application for the replacement of a building with a 2-storey residence and the construction of a swimming pool was refused by the Planning Commission

AT issue was a planning application for the replacement of a building with a 2-storey residence and the construction of a swimming pool. The site in question qualifies as a Category 3 settlement, located in Triq Sant Antnin, Marsascala. Notwithstanding the Directorate’s positive recommendation, the Planning Commission refused the applicant’s request due to the following reasons:

  1. The present building was worthy of retention;
  2. The proposed reconstruction would have resulted in the take up of fresh land;
  3. The proposal was incompatible with the South Malta Local Plan, specifically Policy SMSE 08 which regulates new development in Category 3 ODZ Settlements. This policy militates against ‘any new development involving the taking up of fresh land’;
  4. In addition, the proposal ran counter to the Thematic Objective 1.10 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development ‘which only allows for rural development which is legitimate or necessary.’

Aggrieved by the decision, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that permission should have been granted. In his application (rikors), applicant (now, appellant) made the following arguments:

  1. Contrary to what the Planning Commission had indicated, the proposal was in line with policy;
  2. The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had found no objection insofar as the demolition was concerned. This meant that the existing building was not worthy of retention;
  3. The current building had a floor area of 104 square metres, of which 38 % of that area was to remain unbuilt;
  4. The proposed building would be receded further inwards and a buffer zone was to be provided;
  5. On at least three other occasions, the Authority had found no objection to issue permission for redevelopment outside the development zone;
  6. When compared to the current situation, the proposal would constitute a better design solution.

In reply, the Authority stood firm with its decision to refuse permission. Whilst acknowledging that applicant was correct to point out that the resultant area would be less than what existed, the officer went to observe that ‘the new redevelopment, including the pool and decking, will commit further land on another part of the site to development.’ As to the quoted permissions, the officer held that the relative sites were not located within a Category 3 Settlement.

Moreover, the case officer reiterated that the Commission had ‘every right and obligation of flagging planning issues which ultimately go against the recommendation of the Planning Directorate or any other entity.’ Were it not the case, the officer argued, ‘the same Commission will only serve as a rubber stamp to the Planning Directorate’s recommendations.’

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the present building was of recent origin and thus was not worth retaining. Furthermore, the Tribunal was of the opinion that the replacement building was more aesthetically pleasing. On this basis, the Tribunal ordered the Authority to issue the permit.