The building lies within the outside development zone of Munxar in Gozo. To justify its decision, the Commission held as follows:
1. The proposed development ran counter to the 2014 Rural Policy Guidelines in that the replacement building exceeded the previous approved building;
2. The proposed design was of a low quality;
3. The proposal did not result in ‘a wider environmental benefit’;
4. The proposal was not in line with the Thematic Objective 1 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development which aims at limiting the land take up for uses which are not necessary or legitimate in rural areas;
5. The proposed development was not compliant with the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED), which aims to protect the landscape and the traditional components of the rural landscape and to safeguard protected areas.
In reaction, applicant lodged an appeal with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal insisting that the increase in area was primarily concentrated at basement levels and hence invisible from public view.
In addition, appellant contended that his proposal would lead to a significant environmental benefit because the slaughterhouse was tantamount to an ‘industrial activity that does not necessarily need to be located in an ODZ setting’. Even more, appellant maintained that he would be introducing an improved landscaping scheme ‘comprising endemic and traditional tree species, and grass blocks as floor paving were possible to limit the hard-paved areas and reduce the site formalisation.’
In reply, the case officer representing the Authority held that the poultry house occupied an approximate area of 670sq.m whereas the extensions would total 810sq.m. The officer disagreed with appellant, insisting that the extensions would be visible from public view. It was also argued that the proposed use was not in line with the scope of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance, 2014, since “the spirit of that document was to allow whoever genuinely needs to upgrade or redevelop an existing building or to construct a new one outside the development zone, in conjunction with its use”. According to the case officer, owners should not be encouraged to “leave a site in a state of neglect in order to pave way for new commercial development.”
In its assessment, the Tribunal noted that the building had direct access to the road network. Meanwhile, the Tribunal made reference to Policy 6.2C of the 2014 Rural Policy Guidelines, which specifically allows ‘redevelopment’ or ‘change of use’ of existing buildings located outside the development zone, provided that the end product ‘would result in a wider environmental benefit’. The Tribunal considered that the Authority had failed to substantiate its conclusions as to why applicant’s proposal was not tantamount to a wider environmental benefit. Concluding, the Tribunal held that a tourist complex was indeed an acceptable alternative, subject to a reduction in the proposed floor space.