Initially, the Planning Directorate had recommended the application for approval, even though the Superintendent for Cultural Heritage was concerned with regard to the proposed demolition works. As a matter of fact, the Superintendent pointed out that “the existing building had architectural and historical value whereas the proposed façade was not in harmony with the streetscape”.
Moreover, the eNGO Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar objected to the proposal on, more or less, the same grounds, reiterating that the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage was against the proposal.
Yet, the Directorate argued that the site was not located within the Urban conservation area, noting further that the building was surrounded by other ‘legal developments’ having a similar height. In addition, the Directorate held that hotels fell within the scope of Policy NHHO 01 of the North Harbours Local Plan. As to the proposed building envelope, the Directorate concluded that both the building height (27 meters) and the street frontage height (23.8 metres) lay within the allowable maximum height limitations set out in the Local Plan, in this case six floors with semi-basement.
Nevertheless, the Planning Commission rejected the applicant’s proposal once it held that both the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage and the Malta Tourism Authority were averse to the proposal.
Further to the Commission’s decision, applicant decided to lodge an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his application (rikors), applicant, now appellant, pointed out that, earlier on during the process, he had signaled his intentions to carry out any aesthetic modifications which the Commission deemed fit and, yet, his calls were ignored. Furthermore, applicant took umbrage at the Commission for denying him the opportunity to request the Superintendent to reconsider his previous position.
For its part, the Tribunal observed that the site was not located within an Urban Conservation Area, adding that the building was of no particular architectural value. The Tribunal, however, observed that applicant should submit revised drawings showing a hostel instead of a hotel, following which a decision should be taken by the Commission.
The Tribunal’s decision was appealed before the Court of Appeal by the objectors. In their appeal, the objectors contended that the Tribunal had decided more than it was requested when it concluded that appellant should change the object of the proposal from a hotel to a hostel.
In its assessment, the Court agreed with the objectors in that the Tribunal could not decide beyond what was requested. In other words, the Tribunal was obliged to see whether the proposed hotel was acceptable and not suggest to applicant what could potentially be developed in that particular location. On that basis, the Tribunal’s decision was annulled and the Court ordered the Tribunal to reassess the case in light of its judgment.