MEPA allows ODZ building to grow by 138%

The directorate argued that the approval was in breach of a policy which does not allow extensions to be bigger than the original building.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority has approved a 100 square metre extension and swimming pool to a 72 square metre building in Xewkija, against the advice of the Planning Directorate – the directorate argued that the approval was in breach of a policy which does not allow extensions to be bigger than the original building.

The case officer report states that "the existing building including the ruins, has a floor area of 72 square metres whilst an extension of 100 square metres is proposed." It states that "it is evident that the new building not only exceeds the existing building but also visually dominates it."

The MEPA approval comes in the wake of a MEPA refusal back in 2012 when it turned down the application for a smaller 40 square metre extension to the same ODZ dwelling. The decision had been confirmed by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal a year later but this was followed by the approval of the new rural policy in 2014 which allows MEPA to approve the redevelopment of ruins if these had been used as residences in the past.

In fact the extension proposed by owner George Saliba will take place on land presently occupied by countryside ruins.

An inspection by the MEPA EPC board conducted in 2012 noted that “the building consists of three derelict rooms, one is in complete ruins with only one wall still standing, a second room is hardly eight courses high with walls in an advanced stage of deterioration whilst the third and largest room has only one small aperture overlooking the road and is structurally unsound, the roof structure being presently supported with stone pilasters and a timber beam”.

The EPC has concluded that given the internal dimensions of the two smaller rooms it is most likely that these were used for keeping animals rather than for domestic habitation. “The third and larger room has a higher ceiling, no external windows and only a small opening, possibly for ventilation.”

The case officer did not express any doubts about the claim that the ruins had once been used as a residence, the applicant having provided proof that the ruins had been used as a residence in the past. These included the 1952 electoral register.

But the case officer insisted that the policy applicable to this case was the one banning new extensions from over shadowing the original building.  On the other hand the EPC insisted that since proof existed that the ruins constituted a residence, another policy allowing MEPA to allow extensions to ODZ dwellings to a maximum of 200 square metres could be invoked.

But the same policy quoted by the board comes with a caveat, as another article states that “extension should not visually dominate the existing dwelling.” The development was approved in November. An appeal against the decision has now been presented by third parties and is being heard by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal.