At issue was a planning application which envisaged the sanctioning of various internal alterations to a groundfloor level maisonette which led to its subdivision into two one bedroom units.

Furthermore, the proposal also envisaged the change of use of another maisonette situated within the same block to an office. The site was located within the residential zone of Bahar ic-Caghaq.

Insofar as the proposed office was concerned, the case officer observed that it occupied an area of 54sq.m, hence considered acceptable in terms of policy CG 07 of the Central Malta Local Plan, which policy allows for the introduction of new offices within residential areas so long as the relative floorspace is less than 75sq.m. More so, applicant was exempt from adhering to the standard ‘access for all requirements’, also because the floor area was less than 75sq.m. Notwithstanding being small in size, the case officer also observed that the new dwellings conformed with the statutory floor area requirements (a dwelling is required to have a minimum floor area of 55sq.m so as to be considered habitable). In addition to this, the dwellings were found to enjoy adequate outlook.

This being said, the officer was concerned with the fact that, in all, the site would have 17 apartments, four of which would occupy a floor area which was more than 55sq.m but less than 90sq.m.

This meant that 23% of the units in the block were regarded as one bedroom units.

The case officer underlined that according to Policy P32 of the Development Control Design Policy Guidance and Standards 2015, the maximum threshold for single-bedroom units was set at 20%.

In this instance, the proposal was clearly in violation of the said threshold, although the difference was slight (namely, 23% compared to 20%). Against this background, the case officer moved on to recommend that the proposal should be rejected by the Commission.

In reply, the architect entrusted with the planning application acknowledged that his proposal was not exactly in line with policy demands.

However, the architect argued that if one had to examine ‘the block as a whole’, 20% of 17 units was equivalent to 3.4 units. Even then, the Commission was reminded that the maisonette that was supposed to be subdivided into two one bedroom common parts were actually three bedroom units.

As a final point, the architect emphasized that his client’s application had to also be assessed in the context of being located in an area which is popular for ‘renting flats to students studying in Sliema and the St Julian’s area’.

When the case was referred for a decision earlier this week, the Commission analysed the proposed drawings, noting that ‘there shall be no more than five units in the block’.

The Commission held that, after all, this was ‘compliant to Policy P32’ and decided to remit the case to the Directorate in order to be able to prepare the relative standard conditions.

Meanwhile, a final decision shall be taken by the Commission on the 3rd February.