A planning application entitled “to extend reservoir, excavate rock, create an arch, erect a timber canopy and fix gate” was turned down by the then Environment and Planning Commission. The application relates to an agricultural field bordering the rear of a terraced house in Haz-Zebbug, overlooking Wied Baqqiegha.

The Commission had stated that ‘the proposed development encroaches beyond the official alignment at the rear of the building and within the 0.91 metre statutory green strip and a flood prone area, detracting from the existing and planned uses for the area, and running therefore counter to Structure Plan policy BEN1.” In addition, the Commission pointed out that ‘the proposed canopy, concrete surfacing, boundary wall and gate’ would increase the formalization of the site and the sprawl of development outside the committed footprint. In conclusion, the Commission said that the proposal runs counter to Structure Plan policy RCO29, which essentially seeks to protect water catchment areas and any new physical development along valley sides.

In reaction, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, alleging that the commission members had initially accepted a ‘substantial part’ of his proposal. The applicant further argued that ‘the extension of an existing reservoir, the arrangement of a boundary wall and fixing of gate and the excavation of rock’ are deemed to be permitted in rural areas. But even so, the applicant maintained that he was willing to omit the canopy structure from the proposal.

In reply, the Authority reiterated that the interventions, with or without the canopy, would compromise a green strip overlooking a zone which is currently proposed for scheduling as a Level 3 Area of Ecological Importance. The case officer contended that the proposed development violates Structure Plan policies BEN1, RCO28 and RCO29.

Moreover, the Authority’s officer reminded the Tribunal that doing away with the canopy would still amount to ‘an increase in the formalization of the site and the sprawl of development outside the committed footprint and within a Flood Prone Area.’ As a final point, the Tribunal was reminded that any new physical development should seek to protect valleys and important water catchment areas.

In its assessment, the Tribunal agreed with the Authority in that the proposed formalization would compromise a green strip. Moreover, the Tribunal observed that the interventions would compromise the visual integrity of a pristine location. In the circumstances, the appeal was rejected.