A planning application contemplating the “restoration and conversion” of a scheduled military building along with the construction of an underground cesspit and reservoir was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission. The said structure corresponds to a Grade 1 scheduled military building whereas the immediate precincts are designated as a scheduled level 3 Area of Ecological Value.

In its refusal report, the Commission came to the conclusion that “the proposed excavations would have an adverse impact on the adjacent existing military structures which form part of the scheduled Grade 1 Rifles Range” located in Pembroke.

The Commission reasoned that the proposal would therefore conflict with the objectives of the Structure plan, namely policies UCO 5 and UCO 13. These policies were expressly designed to safeguard areas and sites of architectural and historical importance. In addition, the Commission held that the proposed reservoir and cesspit would result in the unnecessary take up of land and, in turn, would “adversely affect the area, hinder its protection, and run counter to the rural conservation and ecological objectives of Structure plan policy RCO 2 and local plan policy NHCV 01.”

In reaction, the applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the proposed cesspit would divert the foul water which is currently being discharged directly into the sea. The applicant also argued that “the purpose of the proposed reservoir is that of collecting water from the existing structure’s roofs and the adjacent street, in order to be utilised as second class water for an existing sanitary facility.”

Nevertheless, MEPA’s case officer reiterated that the proposed excavation works are still considered objectionable from a cultural heritage perspective in view that such interventions “might damage this scheduled building”. Once again, the officer made direct reference to Structure Plan policies UCO 5 and UCO 13, which promote the conservation of buildings of architectural and historical importance.

In its assessment, the Tribunal asserted that the buildings in question merit the highest level of protection, thus contending that any development “which could possibly impair the setting or change the external or internal appearance, including anything contained within the curtilage of the building” is deemed objectionable.

In conclusion, the Tribunal agreed with the MEPA in that the proposed excavation works were not necessary and went on to confirm the refusal.