Following a thorough analysis, the application was turned down due to the following reasons:
The location of the farm was close to the designated development zone. The proposal was therefore in violation of Thematic Objective 6.1 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development (SPED), which aims ‘to safeguard environmental health from air and noise pollution by controlling the location, design and operation of development’;
The development would result in ‘the obliteration of existing rural features within the site whereas the layout of the proposed structure would be highly visible and difficult to landscape adequately’. The proposal, hence, ran counter to Rural Objectives 1.7 and 4.3(a) which seek to control the cumulative effect of rural development, protect the most sensitive landscapes of cultural importance and natural beauty;
The site was not identified as an intensive agricultural zone in the Local Plan;
The site featured a number of illegalities. Consequently, no further development could be allowed unless the said illegalities are first removed.
In reaction, the applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the Commission’s decision should be reversed. The applicant highlighted that the Commission had allegedly failed to have regard to the surrounding commitment. Specific reference was made to a planning permission for the sanctioning of an existing chicken farm in a location nearby. In addition, the applicant went to observe that he had obtained a ‘no objection’ from the Department of Environmental Health, the Agriculture Department, the Veterinary Regulation Directorate, the Malta Resources Authority, the Agriculture Advisory Committee, Enemalta and the Natural Heritage Advisory Committee. Concluding, the applicant maintained that his proposal was tantamount to improving an otherwise derelict site, adding that the proposed development was compatible with the surrounding built commitment.
In reply, the case officer representing the Planning Authority acknowledged that a permit was issued for a farm in a nearby location. Nevertheless, the applicant’s proposal was located within the 200m buffer zone from groundwater sources for human consumption. Moreover, the proposed farm was to be located within 200 metres from the nearest residential zone and hence the proposal was in violation of Thematic Objective 6.1 which aims ‘to safeguard environmental health from air and noise pollution’.
Contrary to the applicant’s assertions, the Malta Resources Authority and the Environment Protection Directorate had expressed concern ‘on the sprawl of development within rural areas’. According to the case officer, it was not possible to mitigate the visual impact as previously pointed out by the applicant as ‘the proposed landscaping scheme would not effectively mitigate the negative visual impact of the development, due to the farm location having long distant views.’ As regards the existing farm located nearby, reference to which was made in the appeal submission, the case officer went to state that the farm was in that case ‘already established and licensed’.
In its assessment, the Tribunal maintained that the proposal was not in breach of Thematic Objective (TO) 6.1 of the SPED (this policy aims to safeguard environmental health from air and noise pollution by controlling the location, design and operation of development) since the Department of Environmental Health did not object to the proposed development. Nevertheless, the Tribunal was concerned with the interventions since the development would compromise an otherwise unspoilt location, should the permit be issued. For this reason, the Tribunal rejected the appeal.