A planning permission “to effect minor alterations and construction of a lift to existing flats” was issued by MEPA’s Environment and Planning Commission, following which an interested third party lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, objecting to the permit.
In his appeal, the objector alleged inter alia that “the architect submitting the application failed to point out that there was third party property under the proposed development”, insisting further that the passenger lift shaft was going to be built over his bedroom.
The objector made also reference to Policy BEN 1 which states that “development will not normally be permitted if the proposal is likely to have a deleterious impact on existing or planned adjacent uses because of visual intrusion, noise and vibration.” On a different note, the objector highlighted that he was notified about the Commission’s sitting only four days before, adding that he was summoned to appear in court on that same day. In conclusion, the objector alleged that the lift was certified as “structurally safe” by an engineer who is not acknowledged by the Malta Standards Authority.
On its part, the MEPA insisted that there is nothing in the law to suggest that a hearing may not take place if the objectors (or the architects and/or lawyers representing them) are not able to attend the Commission’s hearing. More so, the authority maintained that the permit was subject to the lift being certified as safe prior to its commissioning.
In its assessment, the Tribunal held that an applicant may not necessarily be the site owner and in such cases, the applicant is bound to notify the owner of his intention to apply, by registered letter of which a copy must also reach the authority.
The Tribunal also held that the technical report released by the engineer appointed by the applicant need not be acknowledged by the Malta Standards Authority since the lift was not as yet installed. The Tribunal also made reference to the engineer’s report, who in turn declared that “the lift has to eventually undergo a full test and commissioning by a Notified Body who shall assume full responsibility for the safe and proper operation of the lift and issue the relevant certification and CE marking of the lift”. Against this background, the Tribunal maintained that the permit should stay.
As a reaction, the objector lodged an appeal against the Tribunal’s decision before the Court of Appeal, insisting once again that the engineer appointed by applicant in this case was not qualified to release a safety report.
In its assessment the Court nonetheless held in favour of the applicant, confirming inter alia that an engineer who is entrusted with the preparation of a technical report for the purpose of a planning application need not be certified as a “notified body” with the Malta Standards Authority.