Tribunal sends fresh drawings to PA for reassessment

The Superintendent inspected the property, noting that the latest drawings ‘effectively preserve and integrate the historically and significant parts of the existing property.’ On account of the said events, the fresh drawings were sent back to the Commission to enable reassessment.

At issue was a planning application which envisaged the ‘part-demolition’ of an old building to pave way for basement garages and an overlying five storey residential complex. The Planning Commission observed that the interventions included ‘the demolition of vernacular buildings situated around a central courtyard which is of heritage value’, adding further that the proposal had been objected to by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

For this reason, the Commission held that the proposal was incompatible with Thematic Objective 8 and Urban Objective 2 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development, which policies seek to preserve buildings of cultural heritage. On this basis, the Commission rejected the application.

Following the Commission’s decision, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that permission should have been issued. In his appeal, applicant (now, appellant) brought forward the following arguments:

  1. The stone corbels (kileb) which formed part of the roof structures were retained as shown in the latest submitted drawings;
  2. The Planning Commission had expressed no concern with regard to the fact that the set height limitation was exceeded by 1.38 metres,
  3. The building services were to be located towards the rear of site, hence inconspicuous from public view.

In reply, the Planning Authority held to its previous position, reiterating that the existing building should be retained in its entirety due to its architectural, historical and vernacular value whereas the proposal envisaged the retention of only ‘part’ of the building. On a different note, it was underlined that applicant had, during the process, submitted fresh drawings to include a shop. This was tantamount to a ‘material change’ while a planning application was still under process, which ‘change’ was not permitted by law.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage had initially commented that the property in question consisted of ‘a complex of vernacular buildings around a central courtyard, located just outside the Urban Conservation Area of Safi’. The Cultural Heritage watchdog had further noted that ‘despite some modern interventions/accretions, the property had evident vernacular, historical and architectural value.’

The Tribunal, however, noted that at a later stage, applicant had submitted fresh drawings with a view to integrate the historical buildings as directed by the Superintendent. In fact, the Superintendent had subsequently inspected the property, noting that the latest drawings ‘effectively preserve and integrate the historically and significant parts of the existing property.’ On account of the said events, the fresh drawings were sent back to the Commission to enable reassessment.

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