An outline development planning application to develop residential units was submitted to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority way back in 2007. The site lies outside the development zone in Ghaxaq, opposite the building scheme. Further to a thorough assessment, the request was turned down on a number of counts.

The Authority had in fact pointed out that the site lies outside the limits for development defined in the Rationalised Development Zone Boundaries for Ghaxaq and “so it is located in an area which should remain undeveloped and open”. It was further highlighted that the proposed development “would represent unacceptable urban development in the countryside”, thus in conflict with Structure Plan Policy SET11 which expressly prohibits urban development outside existing and committed built-up areas. Reference was also made to Structure Plan Policy SET12 which essentially provides that new development should be channeled into committed built-up areas. In this case, the site was evidently a rural area where urban development should be strictly prohibited, unless it is shown that the interventions are essential to agricultural, ecological or scenic interests.

In reaction, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that his site formed part of a small hamlet. Applicant, now appellant, underlined that the development would “certainly contribute to the closure of said hamlet”. In addition, specific reference was made to a development permit that was issued “directly adjacent to the site”. Appellant thus maintained that refusing his application was tantamount to absolute discrimination. Moreover, the proposed side elevation bordered the edge of the built up area and would therefore prevent any further ribbon development, eliminating an exposed blank party wall at the same time.

Nevertheless, the Authority held to its previous decision, reiterating that the proposed massing was considered excessive. According to the case officer, “any positive benefits resulting from the screening of the existing blank party wall are clearly overweighed by the negative impacts that so much land is being lost to be transformed from agricultural land into a residential development which could easily (and should) be located within designated developable areas”.

Concluding, the Authority’s representative reminded the Tribunal that the Local Plans put an emphasis over the need for the protection of the countryside so that “any urban development should be directed towards designated urban areas”.

In this assessment, the Tribunal pointed out that appellant’s arguments were not convincing. The Tribunal observed inter alia that the permit quoted by appellant did not create a “strong” precedent so as to allow further construction outside the development zone. Concluding, the Tribunal suggested that, if anything, appellant had an option to submit a Planning Control Application with a view to change the current site designation. Against this background, the appeal was rejected.