Planning Tribunal reluctant to delve into civil matters

The Tribunal held that it was precluded to delve into civil matters, particularly so when a title was in dispute. Against this background, the appeal was rejected while the permit was upheld

The Planning Commission had approved a planning application for internal alterations and the construction of two overlying floors, the topmost of which was to be receded from the front alignment.

In his report recommending approval to the application, the case officer had noted that  although the site was located within the limits of Urban Conservation Area of Sliema, the proposal complied with SPED Urban Objective 2 and Policy TO8.7 since it sought to improve the setting of the Sliema townscape and historic core without resorting to demolition.

In addition, the case officer pointed out that a height to width ratio analysis was carried out and ‘a three floor elevation’ was found to be acceptable. Moreover, it was noted that the corner building in front of the site was already developed on three full floors and the proposed design was therefore not considered to run counter the context within which the site was located.

Following the said decision, an appeal was lodged by a number of third parties before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, who insisted that permission should not have been granted. In their appeal, the third party objectors maintained that they had a valid title of lease on the same property by virtue of Article 12(2) et seq. of Chapter 158 of the Laws of Malta.

It was explained that despite being fully aware of this fact, applicant had failed to forewarn them of his intention ‘to apply for a permit in order to undertake the relative works and alterations in the property in question’.

More so, it was alleged that applicant had made no attempt ‘ to enter into preliminary discussions with a view to agreeing to a potential solution prior to submitting the application, as would have naturally been expected’.

As a final point, the Tribunal was reminded of its obligation to  carefully examine, even if only at prima facie grade, whether such matters had a bearing on, issues of planning law and procedure.

As a reaction, applicant countered by saying that he was the undisputed owner of the property in question and he only sought to apply for the permit in question ‘in accordance to law’.

Applicant underlined that, in any case, all planning permits are issued “save for third party rights”. Consequently, the permit was issued without prejudice to appellants’ right to institute a civil case before the Courts.

In its assessment, the Tribunal held that it was precluded to delve into civil matters, particularly so when a title was in dispute. Against this background the appeal was rejected while the permit was upheld.