Following the Authority’s decision, a neighbouring objector filed an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the permit went against planning policy. In its appeal submissions, the third party objector made a number of assertions:
• The Planning Commission was misled by the case officer;
• The site in question is located within the Urban Conservation Area (UCA) of Balzan. The Planning Commission was given the impression that the applicant’s premises were located on the edge of the UCA when in actual fact, the site forms part of the historic village core;
• The approval of this application would effectively shift the UCA boundary, resulting in the ‘shrinkage’ of the village core;
• The garden in question is ‘one of a series of neighbouring gardens which are all bounded by old rubble walls and it is this very characteristic that makes them unique and worthy of preservation’;
• Applicant’s property was conveniently ‘divided up into plots as if it was some housing scheme’ in breach of good urban design;
Concluding, the objector reiterated that the applicant’s proposal ran counter to established conservation policies and requested the Tribunal to revoke the permit so that the ‘intact L-shaped farmhouse and the large garden’ would be preserved.
In reply, the case officer representing the Planning Authority noted that according to the relative Local Plan (specifically, Map BZM 1), the applicant’s site was designated as ‘a residential area adjoining green open enclaves’. The case officer went on to observe that the present building consists of ‘old rooms built in unrendered bricks and roofed over in concrete’. For this reason, the proposal was tantamount to an ‘aesthetic improvement’ in line with Urban Objective 3 of the SPED, which ‘encourages the upgrading of derelict sites through high quality developments’. As to the existing old rubble wall, the case officer noted that this was ‘incorporated in the new designs’.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the ‘garden’ under review fell outside the Open Enclave boundaries. After having conducted a site inspection, the Tribunal moreover confirmed that the site was surrounded by recent constructed development. Against this background, the Tribunal felt that the Authority was justified to issue the permit and went on to reject the third party appeal.