A development planning application for the conversion of an open courtyard to a catering outlet was refused by the Planning Commission. The premises are located next to an old Chapel in Rabat which was recently restored. To support its decision, the Commission gave the following reasons:

1. The proposed development does not ensure an accessible environment for all its users and visitors and hence runs counter to policy P11 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 and to Urban Objective 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development, which aim for the integration of the requirements of people with special needs in the design of buildings and facilities;

2. The proposed development would have an adverse impact on an important cultural heritage site and would therefore conflict with Thematic Objective 8 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development which aims for the safeguarding and enhancement of cultural heritage;

3. The proposed signage is incompatible with the urban design and environmental characteristics of the Urban Conservation Area. It would not maintain the visual integrity of the area and so does not comply with Urban Objectives 2 and 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development;

4. The proposed development runs counter to the provisions of policy P53 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 which specifies that air purification systems should discharge back into the cooking area. The proposal therefore also runs counter to the Urban Objective 3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development which aims to protect and enhance the character and amenity of urban areas;

5. The proposal does not comply with the provisions of Legal Notice 227 of 2016: Development Planning (Health and Sanitary) Regulations, 2016, in that a light and ventilation report with a detailed report of the automated retractable awning from the engineer is required.

Applicant felt aggrieved by the said decision and filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his submissions, applicant (now, appellant) held that accessibility requirements were met whereas the Superintendent’s concerns had been addressed in the most recent drawings that were submitted directly to the Planning Commission. With regard to the retractable canopy, appellant maintained that this was meant to be ‘free standing’ and ‘not be fixed to the existing surrounding building fabric in any manner’.

In reply, the case officer representing the Planning Authority warned that ‘the roofing of the whole open space, albeit with awning’ was deemed unacceptable due to the proximity to the Chapel, adding that fresh drawings may not be presented during deliberations before the Planning Commission.

After taking cognizance of the parties’ submissions, the Tribunal assessed that the main concern was the impact that the size of the canopy could have on the recently restored chapel. For this reason, the Tribunal held that the proposal was deemed acceptable, however subject to the canopy being reduced in size in order to safeguard the side views of the Chapel.