A 2013 planning application for the ‘construction of two semi detached bungalows’ in Iklin was approved by the Environment and Planning Commission. Following approval of the application, some neighbours lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal giving detailed reasons as to why the permit in question should be revoked.
In response to the appeal, the applicant raised a preliminary plea, maintaining that the objectors did not enjoy a locus standi since they failed to submit a formal written objection within the 20 day statutory period following press publication as prescribed by law.
For their part, the objectors countered by stating that there was no reason to object to the original drawings since it was only when the applicant had furnished additional, detailed drawings at a later stage (prior to the decision) that they came to realise that the proposal conflicted with current policy.
Indeed, the objectors observed that “had the amended drawings been presented on the onset and prior to the expiry date for representations, these would have revealed a different perspective of this negative development towards the visual impact of the valley as well as the negative impact towards good neighbourliness of this development”.
In their conclusions, the objectors reiterated that their objections were raised because “it was reasonably possible to realize that the works would seriously impair all the surrounding tenements and the current topography” – at which stage an architect and a lawyer were hired to provide due assistance. But even so, the objectors pointed out that the subsequent changes constituted a “material change” which in turn necessitated the re-submission of a fresh application according to law.
After assessing the parties’ submissions, the Tribunal held that the applicant’s plea should be upheld, in consequence of which the permit is to remain valid.
On their part the objectors submitted an appeal before the First Hall of the Civil Court, reiterating that the proposed designs were “substantially” changed at a late stage during the application process, as a result of which a new application had to be submitted and advertised in the press according to law so that any objector could file a formal submission.
In its assessment, the Court upheld the applicant’s arguments in that any objections must reach the Mepa within the 20-day statutory period as established by law. The Court nonetheless concluded that the Tribunal failed to ascertain whether, as alleged by the objectors, the design modifications amounted to a material change and thus necessitated a new application along with republication in the press (with a view to invite third parties to make submissions). For this reason the Court ordered the Tribunal to reassess the case in the light of the foregoing.