Illegal ‘agricultural stores’ get a massive makeover and the PA’s green light

The regularisation of a 380-square metre site of illegally developed stores inside Rabat’s Dwejra ‘high landscape value’ area is amongst the largest sites to be regularised in recent years

Aerial photos show that the site underwent interventions for which the case officer could trace no permits
Aerial photos show that the site underwent interventions for which the case officer could trace no permits

The regularisation of large and small illegalities has become a daily occurrence at the Planning Authority, but the scale of a 380-square metre site of illegally developed stores inside Rabat’s Dwejra ‘high landscape value’ area, makes it amongst the largest to be regularised in recent years.

The PA’s environment and planning commission (EPC) regularised three agricultural stores, which occupy a total 172 sqm footprint, and built before 1994; and a more recently constructed store of 245 sqm.

Opposition came from the PA’s case officer, who insisted the applicant in question, a farmer, was not entitled to such an enormous area of storage space. The PA’s own rural policy guidelines specify that for holdings of over 46 tumuli, the maximum allowable area for agricultural rooms cannot exceed 60 square metres.

This means that the applicant, who owns 68 tumuli, was only entitled to this amount of storage space.

And the Agricultural Advisory Committee also called on the PA to approve the sanctioning of the older structures but opposed the regularisation of the larger store.

The case officer also noted that the stores had been fitted with steep apertures and painted, now making them resembles garages within an industrial or commercial area.

Aerial photos show that the site underwent interventions for which the case officer could trace no permits. These included soil removal, site formalisation and construction of walls, which have led to the “deformation of the landscape”. 

The EPC however approved the development after noting that the farmer’s permitted residence is “only 99 sqm” and this could have been extended to 200 square metres according to the new rural policy guidelines. “Therefore the post 1994 store which is adjacent to the dwelling could form part of this extension,” the EPC said.

On its part, the Environment and Resources Authority gave no feedback on the application. Architect and Labour MP Charles Buhagiar presented the application on behalf of owner Bartolomeo Gauci.

ERA objects to dairy farm dwellings

On the other hand, the ERA was vocal on two brand new dwellings in Sannat, where the rural policy guidelines allows dairy farmers to build dwellings within a 100m radius of their farm.

The case officer recommended approval while acknowledging “one of the proposed residences lies beyond 100m from the livestock farm.”

This deviation from policy was justified since it made more sense to locate the new residence along the road as proposed, since it would have a lesser visual impact.

The two residences, have a footprint of 170 and 180 sqm respectively, come with basement levels and hard-paved backyards of 30 and 40 sqm respectively. 

The ERA strongly objected to the development, saying that there was no justification for the dwellings because the farm lies in close proximity to the development zone, where residential development can take place.

It also said the proposal would result in an over-development that is incompatible with the rural environment because of additional land take-up and environmental degradation.

And while such cases only allow one dwelling for each dairy farm owner, this case was a request for two residences through one development application.

But the PA said the two farms were registered under the names of Krispin Parnis and Salvu Parnis, which meant the dwelling was allowable for each farmer.

The applicants will have to enter into a planning obligation that they cannot sell the residences without selling the animal farms in conjunction. 

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