Updated | Planning Commission rejects attempt to turn Wardija car spraying garage to become a villa

The Planning Commission has refused a large 200-sq.m villa opposite the Castello Dei Baroni wedding hall in Wardija

The  Wardija property
The Wardija property

The Planning Commission has turned down a proposed  200-sq.m villa opposite the Castello Dei Baroni wedding hall in Wardija instead of a large and shabby garage of dubious legality.

The area where the villa will be located is outside development zones and designated as one of high landscape value.  Two weeks ago the Planning Commission had hinted that the development could be approved if changes were made to plans to ensure that these conformed to policies.

The Planning Commission chaired by Elizabeth Ellul had originally turned down the development of the villa instead of the garage. But its decision was overruled by the PA’s Appeal’s Tribunal than chaired by Martin Saliba, in April last year. Saliba has been recently appointed to replace Johann Buttigieg as the Authority's Executive chairman.

Subsequently, the owners presented new plans, which were deemed excessive by the case officer. 

No buildings in the area are documented in aerial photos taken in 1978. A much larger structure was later constructed and is visible in the 1994 photos despite the absence of any permits for this development.

The villa as proposed would have included a 200 sq.m basement, which was originally proposed over street level.

For this reason the case officer recommended a refusal but the Planning Commission had indicated that it could approve the development if the basement is developed under street level.  But the case officer still insisted on its refusal because the total floorspace exceeded the 200 sq.m threshold.

It was the PA’s appeal tribunal, which in April 2019 had issued an outline permit or the construction of a residence and swimming pool in the same site, thus paving the way to the full permit.

The permit was originally turned down by the Planning Commission after the case officer argued that the “proposed redevelopment of the existing illegal spraying activity into a residence,” was in breach of policy.

But the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal had overturned its decision than chaired by Martin Saliba who now serves as the PA’s Executive Chairman.

The PA had turned down the development because no sufficient proof that the garage was ever used as a residence had been presented.

But the Appeal’s tribunal still approved the permit in view of neighbouring developments in the area arguing that the area should be recognized as a rural hamlet. It also noted that the PA had never issued an enforcement order against the gar-age even if no permits were ever traced.

Despite the Tribunal’s decision to issue an outline permit, the Environment and Resources Authority still objected to the development noting that the original building visible on the 1968 survey sheet measures approximately 18sqm. According to ERA over the years the site was subject to modifications, including the intensification of the small structure into a 106sqm garage and surfacing of soil without permission.

“The proposed interventions will result in the intensification of a rural building into a fully-fledged villa in an area ODZ.”

In the assessment of the latest application the case officer concluded that the development as proposed in the full permit application was excessive particularly because its basement was above street level. The Planning Commission has now ordered the developer to make changes to ensure that the basement is fully constructed under street level. It also limited the paved area around the pool to 75 sq. m instead of the proposed 360 sq.m.

The case officer had also objected to the design of the building arguing that this would have a “modern appearance” which does not fit with the rural context.

 

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