Authority ordered to reassess application for tables and chairs

The Tribunal observed that the appellant was correct in stating that the Authority had issued a number of similar permits across the island. It noted that it was not clear whether, the proposal would compromise the neighbouring amenity as alleged by the objectors since no study was conducted in this regard and therefore should be reassessed

At issue was a planning application for ‘outdoor tables and chairs’ alongside a cafeteria. According to the drawings by applicant’s architect, the tables and chairs would occupy a kerb side parking slot. In addition, the proposal included sanctioning of the awnings mounted on the façade.

In spite of a positive case officer’s report, the Planning Commission refused applicant’s request, citing the following grounds:
The proposed development ran counter to the provisions of policy P8 of the Policy, Guidance and Standards for Outdoor Catering Areas on Public Open Space 2015 in that the proposal would result in the removal of existing parking space in an area where, according to the Commission ‘there is high parking demand’; The Commission had received numerous objections from nearby residents, which it could not ignore.

Following  this decision, applicant decided to lodge an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that permission should have been granted. In his appeal, applicant (now, appellant) maintained that the proposal was in line with policy requirements, since policy P8 of the 2015 guidelines expressly provided that permitting Authorities may consider requests for extending the Outdoor Catering Area over parking spaces. Moreover, it was pointed out that Transport Malta had signaled its approval to the proposal. Whilst acknowledging that each and every case was to be assessed ‘on its own merits’, appellant highlighted that, in his case, the tables and chairs would be placed over a demountable timber platform which could be ‘easily removed’. 

In addition, appellant made reference to a number of similar proposals, which were approved once it was established that the ‘lost parking space’ was not reserved for persons with disability. As a final point, appellant argued that ‘according to current urban theory the loss of car parking spaces is actually beneficial to the urban fabric, and especially more so in an area specifically scheduled for commercial use’ such as the one at issue. Insofar as the residents’ objections, the Commission had failed to pay regard to the fact that the site falls within a designated commercial area, already subject ‘to a noticeable degree of environmental noise due to nearby traffic’.

In reply, the case officer reiterated that the cafeteria was located between two roads, one of which was ‘relatively wide’ and where commercial activity was allowed whereas the other was a  ‘typical residential road’.  With this in mind, the Commission was correct not to disregard the objections. In addition, the officer noted that the proposal entailed the conversion of a parking space into a ‘catering area’ whereas the removal of parking spaces was, according to policy, only allowed when the development  involved an ‘extension’ of an already established catering area.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that appellant was correct in stating that the Authority had issued a number of similar permits across the island. More so, the Tribunal also noted that it was not clear whether, in this particular case, the proposal would compromise the neighbouring amenity as alleged by the objectors since no study was conducted in this regard.  Finally, the Tribunal drew attention to the fact that Transport Malta had endorsed a set of plans which were different from those assessed by the Commission. Against this background, the Tribunal concluded that the proposal should be reassessed afresh by the Authority.

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