Planning around the ‘best fit line’

The Tribunal concluded that it was willing to accept the proposal so long that a best fit line linking the maximum permitted height of 17.5 metres from the lower street frontage to the higher street frontage was drawn

At issue was a planning application for the construction of an additional floor over an office complex in Mriehel. Permission was yet denied after the Planning Commission held that the proposed height was to exceed the set Local Plan height limitation and the corresponding height in metres as held in the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 (in this case, 17.5 metres).

Furthermore, the Commission observed that the building was caught between two streets and the design should be stepped down to reflect the profile of the existing topography.

As a reaction, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that he should have been granted permission.

To substantiate his arguments, applicant (now, appellant) held that his premises were located within the Imriehel Industrial Area, which zone was not subject to a set height limitation.

Appellant further contended that the Authority had approved other buildings which were indeed higher than what he was about to propose.

At one point, appellant acknowledged that the building would consist of three floors and two receded floors. Still, appellant contended that when viewed from  Triq I-Imdina, his property would be seen to be on three floors and a receded floor.

This meant that the envisaged construction would not have ‘a deleterious effect on the surrounding area or a negative visual impact’.

As a final point, appellant remarked that the ‘additional floor’ was not meant for resale but only intended to consolidate his ongoing business activity.

In reply, the Authority stood firm with its decision to refuse the permit. The case officer made reference to policy P2 of DC 2015, which simply acknowledges that buildings having  “frontages on two streets located at different site levels”, such as the one under examination, were critical in terms of design.

The case officer highlighted the importance that any new design  fits ‘seamlessly as possible’ within the particular topography reflecting the profile and basic contours/levels that characterise the particular site and not compete with them.

According to the officer, the proposed additional floor would impact negatively on the exiting street topography since it ‘will be more of a competing player rather than reflecting the profile and basic contours/levels of this particular site.’

In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately observed that the property in question had two frontages on different streets.

The Tribunal noted that the Authority was concerned with the fact that the topmost floor was not adequately receded so as not to extend beyond the set 17.5 metre height. The Tribunal also found that the buildings which were approved in the vicinity of the site were not higher than 17.5 metres as had been previously alleged by appellant.

The Tribunal went on to conclude that it was willing to accept the proposal so long that a best fit line linking the maximum permitted height of 17.5 metres from the lower street frontage to the higher street frontage was drawn and any building volume extending beyond the said line be compensated by an equivalent total void below that same line.

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