A 2012 planning application for the “sanctioning” of  a number of structural variations, which were carried out without a permit, was turned down by the MEPA’s Planning Commission after it held that the building height violated the maximum height limitation as established by the Gozo and Comino Local Plan. 

In this case, applicant was contending that the building consisted of two floors and semi basement as required by policy while the Authority was insisting that the building read as three full floors.

The Commission further added that the building extends to a depth of 32 metres from the street alignment, thus exceeding the maximum building depth allowed by current policies (namely, 25 metres).

In conclusion, the Commission underlined that the  “tegole” on the façade were alien to the aesthetic character of the building. 

On his part, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting inter alia that the reasons for refusal were “manifestly unfair, unreasonable and disproportionate”.

Applicant (now appellant) submitted that as a rule, semi-basement garages fronting a sloping street may be constructed up to a maximum of nine courses from the lowest pavement level. Applicant contended that, in his case, the height of the semi basement garage is equivalent to six and a half courses when measured from the highest pavement level.

With regard to the second reason for refusal, where the MEPA insisted that the building extends up to a depth of 32 metres from the street alignment (the maximum building depth permitted, according to the Gozo Local Plan amounts to 25 metres), is tantamount to a “wrong application” of the law, since the development boundaries were established prior to the Gozo Local Plan. Applicant thus contended that “the extended development zone, as approved by both MEPA and parliament, indicated that it was the intention at the time to allow development up to 32 metres, and not 25 metres as now being alleged.” In his conclusions, applicant insisted that the “tegole” do not jeopardize the visual integrity of the area in any way.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that applicant was correct to state that the height of the semi basement falls within the allowable height for semi basements on sloping frontages.  The Tribunal also noted that the area features a number of committed developments – including the building next door –   featuring a depth exceeding 25 metres. Nonetheless, the Tribunal agreed that the tegole should be removed. Against this background, the Tribunal ordered that the permit be issued subject to a €2,329 fine.