The Planning Authority had received a planning application entitled “sanctioning of rural room with rest room/shower and proposed cesspit.”
The said development is located in Bidnija. Following a thorough assessment, the Commission held that the proposal ‘could not be considered further’ as the rooms were illegally converted to a residence.
The Commission also concluded that the proposal was in breach of Criteria 3 and 6 of Policy 2.5A of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance 2014 as the rooms were not located on officially ‘registered’ land.
In addition, the Commission found that the proposed cesspit ran counter to Rural Objective 3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development since ‘the structure was not considered as an ancillary use to an agricultural use’. Reference was also made to Criterion 7 of the Rural Objective 1 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development which seeks to control the ‘cumulative effect’ of rural development. Against this background, applicant’s request was rejected.
In response, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In defence of his application, applicant (now, appellant) pointed out that planning permission had been issued to construct walls along the site periphery. Moreover, it was contended that an old room had previously existed in the same location.
Consequently, applicant felt that the proposal was tantamount to ‘redevelopment’ in line with current policies allowing for reconstructions that were in existence prior to 1978. As regards the ‘illegal use’, appellant disagreed that the structure served as a residence, insisting that his intentions were to use the rooms for agriculture related activity. But even so, appellant made reference to a couple of dwelling applications which had been granted planning permission.
The Planning Authority reacted by stating that applicant had previously made an attempt to sanction the illegal development. The case officer also referred to the 1978 aerial photos, pointing out that, at the time, there were no rooms present on site as suggested by applicant.
The case officer went on to state that ‘the only structure seen on the 1978 aerial image is a reservoir’ whereas the present room was detected only after 1998. Concluding, the case officer explained that no permits had been issued ‘similar to the case under appeal’ as the quoted precedents were given the green light under a different policy regime. In its assessment, the Tribunal assessed that the illegal structure occupies an area of 90 square metres, built at some pint in time between 1994 and 1998.
The Tribunal agreed with the Authority in that a reservoir had existed on site prior to 1978. Consequently, there were no rooms in existence during the said period as alleged by appellant. This meant that appellant was not eligible to redevelop a room that had not existed in the first place. Against this background, applicant’s case was dismissed.