A sanctioning planning application involving the enlargement of a garage and underlying basement together with an illegal boundary wall was turned down by the Planning Commission.
The said application concerns a dwelling located within walking distance from the Ggantija megalithic temples in Gozo.
In its decision, the Commission held as follows:
1. The development proposed for sanctioning was located within an identified archaeological park (Gozo and Comino Local Plan Map 14.12-A) where ‘only development related to traditional cultivation and maintenance of rubble walls may be permitted’;
2. The proposal ran counter to Gozo and Comino Local Plan policies GZ-ARCO-1 and GZ-ARCO-2;
3. The proposal was in breach of Thematic Objective 8.1 and Thematic Objective 8.7 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development which aim to safeguard and enhance cultural heritage;
4. The illegal extensions exceeded the maximum allowable plot depth, that is 25 metres;
5. The development had an adverse impact on the rural landscape surrounding the Ggantija Area of Archaeological Importance which includes the Xaghra Stone Circle and the Ghar ta’ Ghejzu;
6. The proposed sanctioning ran counter to policy 6.3 of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance 2014 which specifies that structural extensions ‘must respect the rural context and must not compromise the scheduling characteristics of sites of archaeological importance’;
7. The two-metre high boundary wall at the rear of property was in breach of Policy 2.9 of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance 2014 which specifies that such walls shall not exceed a height of 1.2 metres from the higher soil level.
In turn, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that his application should have been granted permission. In his submissions, applicant (now, appellant) contended that the area was committed with similar development which, incidentally, was situated closer to the megalithic temples. In addition, appellant argued that the illegal extension was minimal when compared to the footprint of the original property. It was further argued that no demolition works affecting scheduled and vernacular buildings was envisaged. As a final point, appellant pointed out that a perimeter high wall was fundamental to provide him with enough security.
In reply, the Authority observed that the extensions which applicant sought to sanction lacked respect to the context which comprised a buffer zone to an archaeological site. The drawings showed circa 600 square metres of illegally committed land, equivalent to 300% of the original dwelling footprint.
Furthermore, the Authority warned that ‘works necessitating the removal of soil and/or debris including possible rock cutting/trimming in an area that is archaeologically sensitive’ went on unmonitored. Despite the fact that no further demolition works were envisaged, the Authority was concerned about the excavation works having been carried out illegally.
In this ambit, reference was expressly made to Thematic Objective 8 which clearly seeks the “safeguarding and enhancement cultural heritage”.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the dwelling in question is situated within a buffer zone close to a Class A Area of Archaeological Importance. More so, the Tribunal contended that the illegal extensions were located outside the development zone. Concluding, the Tribunal felt that there was no sufficient commitment to justify the illegal development. The Tribunal also commented on the scale of the illegal footprint and went on to reject the appeal.