A planning application entitled  “Change of use from garage to public service garage for chauffeur service” in Triq it-Tullier, Attard, was initially turned down by MEPA’s Environment and Planning Commission after it held that “the proposed public service garage is unacceptable in a designated Residential Priority Area as it would have a deleterious impact on the amenity of the area and of existing adjoining uses.”

The Commission went on to state that the proposal   constitutes “bad neighbour development and so conflicts with Structure Plan policy BEN1 and policy CG 08 of the Central Malta Local Plan which seeks to protect the amenity of existing and planned adjoining uses”. Reference was made to policy CG08 since the site lies in a “residential priority zone” featuring typical detached dwellings.

More so, the Commission underlined the fact that “the proposed development will remove the existing parking space for the building and so it would conflict with Structure Plan policy TRA 4 and PA Circular 3/93 which seek to ensure that appropriate provision is made for off-street parking.”

As anticipated, the applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that his proposal does not constitute bad neighbourliness in any way. The applicant (now appellant) stated that the garage in question already serves for domestic parking of private cars.

In addition, the applicant maintained that “the purpose of this application is to allow the applicant to use his garage for the parking of his chauffeur service vehicle, which will also be his family car.” The applicant therefore concluded that “there will be absolutely no loss in parking provision”, adding that “the application seeks solely permission for the parking of one public service vehicle while no commercial activity, servicing or maintenance of the car itself shall be carried out on the premises”. According to the appellant,  “the only difference will be the function of the car itself, rather than the garage.” On his part, MEPA’s case officer reiterated that the site under appeal forms part of a Residential Priority Area, where only residential development is allowed. But even so, the case officer maintained that “the proposed change of use to a public service garage for the parking of a chauffeur vehicle would result in the loss of existing parking spaces for one of the two overlying residential units.

In its assessment, the Tribunal took note of the fact that the proposed use entails the parking of a medium sized taxi vehicle, adding that the appellant’s proposal does not entail a “new use”. The Tribunal indeed observed that “public service garages” are not specifically listed in the Legal Notice regulating the various use classes – in turn, this implies that  proposals for the garaging of public service vehicles need to be considered on a case by case basis and are not therefore excluded a priori.

Against this background, the Tribunal ordered the Authority to issue the permit on condition that “no commercial activity, servicing/maintenance of the vehicle shall be carried out on the premises.”