The room in question, which was located in a small field in the limits of Birzebbuga, occupied a floor area of circa 30sq.m.
To justify the decision, the Commission highlighted the following reasons:
The proposed sanctioning of the existing store was in conflict with criterion 2, 6 and 8 of policy 2.5A of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance (RPDG) 2014 ‘since the room was not positioned on registered land’;
The size of the store exceeded the maximum storage entitlement and the height of the store was in excess of that permitted in the policy;
The proposal ran counter to the Thematic Objective 1.10 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development which only allows rural development where it is found to be legitimate or necessary;
The proposal resulted in the loss of agricultural land, thus running counter to Policy 1.20 of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance 2014 which seeks to ensure soil conservation;
The proposed sanctioning of the water reservoir ran counter to policy 2.7A of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance (RPDG) 2014, which requires that water reservoirs exceeding 10sq.m shall be located underground covered by a 0.5 metres layer of soil;
A number of illegalities were detected on site, namely an unauthorised passage which in turn resulted in the fragmentation of land and the demolition of a stretch of rubble walls which are protected at law;
In reaction, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that permission should have been issued. In his rikors (application), applicant, now appellant, submitted that the holdings in question were registered under applicant’s name, contrary to what had been purported by the Commission. Having said that, applicant held that he would be forwarding additional reasons to justify his proposal during the pendency of proceedings.
In reply, the case officer cited Regulation 17 of Legal Notice 162 of 2016 which specified that a proposal could not be considered further should there be illegal development on site. In this case, the officer reminded the Tribunal that applicant had formed a passageway without obtaining prior clearance.
For its part, the Tribunal however observed that the ‘illegal passageway’ was not deemed objectionable since it consisted of beaten earth. Moreover, it was observed that the Authority had not filed any similar objections with regard to previous application relative to the same site. As to the merits, the Tribunal asserted that applicant was in possession of circa five tumoli of land and was therefore entitled to a maximum of 15sq.m roofed storage area. Moreover, the reservoir in question was to be buried. In this case, the room measured 30sq.m whereas the water reservoir was located above soil level. In the circumstances, the Tribunal felt that the appeal should be dismissed.