The Planning Authority gave permission for the demolition of an existing washroom at second floor level followed by the subsequent construction of an additional floor with an overlying washroom after having established that the proposed designs were in line with current policies. The building in question is located in Triq Antonio Busttil, San Giljan. The permission was issued despite various objections were filed by the neighbours alleging that the building in question was not compliant with planning permits. The objectors observed that ‘the basement was being used for habitable purposes’ whereas the width of the curtilage was less than 3 metres (as required by law). In addition, the garage situated on the side of the property served as a separate entrance. Concluding, the objectors insisted that ‘the proposed extension was designed so that the property will be divided into a number of units with each unit having its independent and separate access’.
As expected, the neighbours felt aggrieved by the Commission’ decision and lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the Commission’s decision should be reversed. In their application, the objectors reiterated the following arguments:
The site in question lacked a 3-metre side curtilage. To complicate matters, a separate skin was even built next to the dividing wall, as a result of which the statutory width was further reduced;
The garage on the side of the building served as a separate entrance to the property.
In reply, the case officer representing the Planning Authority however justified the Commission’s decision, highlighting that contrary to what appellant had asserted, no illegalities could be detected on site. The case officer explained that the ‘separate skin’ mentioned by the objector was approved by way of a previous permit. As to the garage, it was pointed out that ‘if a change of use of this space occurs, this will be in breach of the same approved plans and consequently subject to further necessary action according to law.’ Accordingly, action would be taken at that stage.
On his part, the permit holder rebutted appellant’s allegations. Photographic evidence to show that the side curtilage had the required width of three metres was also submitted.
In its assessment, the Tribunal confirmed that both the garage and the boundary wall were covered by previous planning permits. Moreover, the Tribunal held that a permit may not be revoked on mere suspicion of future ‘illegal activity’. Against this background, the permit was confirmed.