The MEPA’s Environment and Planning Commission approved a planning application which was submitted by SK Victoria Wanderers, contemplating the construction of “a public belvedere at road level underlying a football club”. Following permit approval, a neighbour filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, requesting the revocation of the permit.

In his detailed submissions, the objector highlighted that the applicant failed to demonstrate that the relative consent from the property owner, in this case the Government Property Division, was obtained at the outset of the application as required by law.

Moreover, the objector alleged that the applicant failed to furnish a fire safety report even though the proposed development concerned a public property. The objector went on to state that the approved drawings feature two kitchens and yet fail to provide for any “assembly points” in case of a fire emergency.

It was also observed that the proposal fails to meet the “Access for All” requirements as well as the pertinent Public Health Regulations. The objector concluded by saying that the proposed elevations are out of synch with the surrounding urban context.

On his part, applicant reacted by stating that the owner, in this case the Government Property Division, was made aware of the proposal during the application process.  Furthermore, the applicant submitted documentation attesting that the “possession” of the property was transferred to SK Victoria Wanderers by way of a public deed.

More so, the applicant pointed out that the land in question is expressly designated for “sports facilities” according to the Local Plan.  With regard to the absence of a “fire safety report”, the applicant stated that such a report is not required “ad validitatem” (as a condition of validity).

Having said that, the applicant maintained that he was willing to submit such a report should the Tribunal so decide. In addition, the applicant underlined that he had obtained the relative consent from the Public Health Department. In conclusion, the applicant reminded the Tribunal that all works need to be in line with Access for All regulations and any allegations to the contrary are thus unfounded.

In its assessment the Tribunal held against the objector and concluded that the permit should remain valid. The Tribunal observed inter alia that the applicant had notified the relative owner, in this case the Government Property Division, prior to the Commission’s decision.

In addition, the Tribunal said that the proposal was in line with the relative policy which expressly provides for “the consolidation of this central part of Rabat for the possible location of limited public social and community facilities and to enhance public access to these sites and centralise such land uses”.  With regard to the absence of a “fire safety report”, the Tribunal noted that the appellant failed to pinpoint a legal provision which refers to such a requirement.

Following the Tribunal’s decision, the objector went on to lodge an appeal before the Civil Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) alleging that the decision was “defective” on a point of law. The objector reiterated that the decision went against external recommendations.

Nevertheless, the Court reacted, stating that disputes associated with “ownership issues” are to be dealt independently from the “planning domain”.  The Court also observed that planning decision organs are not bound to follow any of the recommendations made by external consultees during the application process – although, there is nothing in this case to suggest that the permit is in conflict with any of the recommendations. Against this background, the Court held that the Tribunal’s decision is valid.