A planning application entitled ‘Construction of a ground floor store and overlying store as an end of development’ was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission after it found that there were no reasons, at least from a planning point of view, as to why the development could not be located in an area designated for development or in an existing built up area. The development in question is located outside the schemed boundary of Zurrieq. 

The Commission observed that the proposed development was in conflict with Structure Plan Policy SET 11, ‘which does not permit urban development outside existing and committed built-up areas’. Moreover, it was specifically pointed out that the proposed interventions would result in ‘the subdivision of agricultural land holdings in view of the construction of a boundary wall across the whole site from one end of the site to another’. Consequently, the proposal was considered to be in violation of Policy NWAG 01 of the North West Local Plan, which militates against the ‘parcelling of agricultural land holdings against the contours of the site.’

In reaction, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his detailed submissions, the applicant’s architect argued that the proposed building was to replace an old building having a footprint of 61 square metres. Reference was also made to another planning application, where the Authority had allegedly approved a dwelling outside the development zone due to the fact that the site was located on the fringe of the development boundary. 

The Authority, however, stood firm by its earlier position. As regards the application quoted by the applicant, the Authority said that the development in that case was sandwiched between two terraced houses whereas, in this case, the proposed store would only mitigate part of an existing blank party wall. The Authority contended that ‘if every blank party wall in ODZ justifies a new development, then the cumulative massing and uses in ODZ would render these areas as small urban areas’.  To conclude, the case officer representing the Authority reiterated that the proposal involved the construction of a boundary wall ‘against the contours of the terraced fields’, in conflict with current environmental policies.

In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately observed that the appellant was a genuine farmer and therefore required a considerable amount of storage space. The Tribunal further considered that the proposed construction works would, indeed, mitigate a two storey blank wall.  For this reason, the Tribunal acceded to the appellant’s request, provided that the height of the store would be limited to one floor above street level.