In the case under review, the applicant had filed a planning application with a view to regularise a girna and a small room built next to it, both which had been constructed without prior authorisation. The applicant also sought to sanction a rubble wall which, according to the Authority, was also reinstated without a permit.
The Planning Commission observed that applicant’s field was located outside the development zone and went on to refuse the application on the following grounds:
The field was located within a Special Area of Conservation of International Importance;
The rooms were not necessary to the management or enhancement of the site;
The interventions were not compatible with the visual integrity of the area;
The interventions included inter alia the ‘significant alteration of rubble walls’ which contribute to the character of rural areas, their affording a habitat for flora and fauna.
In reaction, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the proposed development should have been approved. In his appeal, applicant (now, appellant) put forward the following arguments:
The Commission had ignored the fact that the rooms under consideration (namely, the girna and the room) had been in existence for a long time;
The Environment Protection Directorate had not objected to the proposal;
The interventions regarding the rubble walls were not significant as these were limited to the topping of the walled surface with concrete. The concrete layer was aimed to guard against water intrusion.
In reply, the case officer reminded the Tribunal that the site in question was designated as an Area of Ecological Importance (Degree of Protection 2). In addition, the interventions, according to the case officer, were incompatible with the scenic value of the area whereas. Similarly, the reconstructed walls were out of context with the visual amenity and landscape value of the site due to the employed construction methodology.
Finally, it was noted that even though the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee had found no objection to the redevelopment of the girna, the same could not be said with regard to the other room since this was not visible in the old 1967 survey sheets.
In its assessment, the Tribunal confirmed that applicant’s field was situated within a Special Area of Conservation and a Level 2 Area of Ecological Importance. The Tribunal also observed that the Authority was objecting to the reconstruction of the room as well as the interventions carried out to the rubble walls. Nevertheless, the Tribunal held that appellant was registered as a farmer and was thus entitled to having agricultural storage provided that the room was of a high quality rural design.
After noting that the illegal room was situated close to the girna, the Tribunal ordered the Authority to issue the permit on condition that both rooms were to be used solely as a store for agricultural implements and produce.