A development planning application “to sanction the construction of a boathouse” in Dwejra (Gozo) was lodged with the then Malta Environment and Planning Authority in the year 2000. In the meantime, the then Minister for the Environment had approved the Qawra / Dwejra Heritage Park Action Plan in 2005 (QDHPAP), providing the possibility for boathouse owners to regularise their position.

Having said that, the Environment and Planning Commission still held that the sanctioning works were deemed not “suitable” due to the area being of “high scenic value and ecological protection”. In addition, the Commission maintained that the proposed sanctioning was not “in the public interest.”

Following the Commission’s decision, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Authority, insisting that Policy RC037 of the Structure Plan mandated the Authority to set up a “management authority” with a view to formulate management plans for this area. As a result, the Qawra / Dwejra Heritage Park Action Plan was eventually published in 2005 (QDHPAP). It was further pointed out that according to the Action Pan, boathouses qualify as a “permitted use” subject to a number of conditions including the imposition of a planning obligation. Applicant explained that these funds are subsequently “invested to upgrade a Heritage Park Area”.

More so, the Action Plan stipulates that the boathouses should be limited to one storey, the roof tops should be “finished” in natural stone whereas all external apertures should be constructed in timber. Against this background, the applicant reminded the Tribunal that his proposal was turned down by the Commission despite being in line with these requirements. Consequently, the Authority had “chosen to go against these policies and consider the proposal subjectively” while accepting similar requests, including the boathouse located in the adjacent plot. This, according to applicant, amounted to “inconsistency in judgment”.

In reply, the Authority rebutted the applicant’s claims, reiterating that his property was located outside the Development Zone. Moreover, the area was scheduled as a Special Area of Conservation of International Importance, a Special Protection Area, a Bird Sanctuary, a Site of Scientific Importance (Level 2) and an Area of High Landscape Value. The case officer went on to highlight that the applicant was correct to note that a number of permits were indeed issued by the Authority. But even so, the case officer argued that the applicant’s proposal merited a refusal nonetheless.

In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately observed that further to the publication of the Dwejra Action Plan, a number of similar proposals to that of the applicant were given the green light. The permits quoted by the applicant were governed by the same Policy GZ-Slwz-1 which was equally applicable in applicant’s case. In the circumstances, the Tribunal felt that there was no justified reason to reject the appeal. Consequently, the permit was issued subject to a fine of €2,329.37.