PA proposes use of existing buildings in countryside as demand grows for childcare centres

The Planning Authority publishes updated planning framework to cater for growing demand of childcare facilities • Home-based centres would cater for up to six children

(File photo) Updated framework seeks to respond to growing demand for childcare facilities
(File photo) Updated framework seeks to respond to growing demand for childcare facilities

An updated planning framework will make it possible for existing buildings in the countryside, terraced houses, maisonettes and detached properties to be developed into childcare facilities, as the Planning Authority seeks to provide space catering for the growing demand of such centres.

The planning watchdog has published an updated planning framework focusing on location, suitability and scale of premises and the potential impact on neighbours.

The Planning Authority said the updated framework was in line with government’s commitment to increase women’s participation in the labour market. Whether or not premises are considered suitable for childcare facilities will be assessed by the Ministry for Education, including determining the maximum number of children together with corresponding number of carers a childcare facility can have.

“To emphasize the growing importance of child care facilities, the policy promotes that these facilities are to be located within residential areas or employment hubs such as town centres, industrial zones, micro-enterprise parks, tourism zones and entertainment areas. This approach seeks to make it easier for working parents to have access to these facilities close to their place of work,” the Planning Authority said.

The PA said that existing buildings in the countryside may also be considered suitable for the provision of childcare facilities, as long as the building is not too distant from urban areas and is already serviced by the road network.

“Due to the presence of undesirable levels of chemical pollution and noise, as well as a higher risk of traffic accidents, the guidelines will not favourably consider childcare facilities on arterial, distributor or other heavy traffic roads.”

The authority said that from a land-use perspective, the policy considers terraced houses, maisonettes and detached properties in appropriate locations as suitable for the use of child day care facilities, provided that they satisfy the requirements of this policy.

Detached properties, may have the added advantage in that they are more likely to be able to provide outside play areas and accommodate on-site parking.

“To protect the amenity of the surrounding area and the impact that such facilities may have on neighbours, premises which share their access with a block of flats will not be considered appropriate.”

Additionally, all proposed child day care facilities will need to ensure that they are fully accessible for all, including persons with disability and the mobility impaired. 

To ensure adequate parking provisions and reduce the impact of such a facility on the adjacent neighbourhood, the guidelines categorise into four tiers the proportion of the scale/impact. The policy determines that there is no impact for home-based childcare facilities – up to six children – a low impact for facilities up to 100m2, a medium impact for facilities between 100-180m2 and a significant impact for facilities with over 180m2.

The approved policy document together with the submissions received from the public during the public consultation phase may be viewed on www.pa.org.mt.

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