The building in question is located within an area of Level 3 Scheduled Area of Ecological Importance in Mosta. In particular, the Commission was not convinced that the building had been used as a residence, in spite of a declaration signed by a Notary stating otherwise. To justify its decision, the Commission gave the following reasons:
1. The proposed development runs counter to the provisions of policy 6.3 of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance (RPDG) 2014 in that no proof has been submitted that the existing property is a legitimate or pre-1978 dwelling.
2. The proposal thus entails the unjustified creation of a new dwelling in a Rural Area which is also a Level 3 Scheduled Area of Ecological Importance;
3. The proposal is not in line with the Thematic Objective 1 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development for limiting the land take up for uses which are not necessary or legitimate in rural areas;
4. The proposed dwelling would therefore lead to the unjustified formalisation of a rural area and detract from the visual quality of the open countryside;
5. The proposed development runs counter to the provisions of policy CG 22 of the Central Malta Local Plan Local Plan which stipulate that protected and scheduled areas in the Rural Area are to be conserved.
In reaction, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the permit should have been issued. Applicant, now appellant, referred once again to the Notary declaration stating in unequivocal terms that the building was used as a residence. The proposed extension resulted in a gross floor area of 150 square metres, which according to applicant, was way below the maximum area permitted by policy.
In reply, the case officer representing the Authority reiterated that the proposal was objectionable from a planning point of view, adding that applicant had failed to furnish a copy of the electoral register to substantiate the Notary’s declaration.
In its assessment, the Tribunal referred to Policy 6.3 of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance (2014) which specifies that extensions to existing dwellings in the Rural Area will only be considered if it can be proven that the existing property has been used as a residence prior to 1992 or that the dwelling dates back to pre-1978. In this case, the Tribunal was satisfied that a permit for the construction of a dwelling was indeed issued back in September 1958. In addition, the Tribunal observed inter alia that the present building had existed prior to 1969. Against this background, the appeal was upheld.