During processing stage, the Planning Authority received a number of objections from neighbouring residents who voiced their concern in view of the likely impact associated with increased traffic generation.
The application was, in fact, turned down by the Planning Commission on the following basis:
1. The proposed change of use was considered to give rise to bad neighbourliness, particularly due to the fact that the premises were located close to the Capua hospital. The proposal was thus incompatible with Thematic Objective 6.1 and Urban Objectives 3.5 and 4.2 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED);
2. The proposal would also give rise to unacceptable additional on-street car parking which would not be in the interests of the amenity of the area. The proposal was therefore in conflict with Thematic Objective 10.6 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development and to the car parking standards set out in Annex 1 of DC 15.
As a reaction, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that permission should have been granted. According to applicant (now appellant), there are other hotels located elsewhere which ‘enjoy virtually unrestricted use of similar commercial spaces’. To reinforce his argument, appellant made express reference to Milano Due Hotel in Gzira and Torre Paolina wedding hall in Madliena.
Appellant went further to argue that ‘ a multipurpose ancillary hall has always been considered by all government entities and authorities as being intrinsic to the operation of a hotel property’. Appellant thus held that the Board’s decision was ‘arbitrary in nature’ whilst pointing out that he would be willing to undertake those noise mitigation measures which the Board deemed necessary. Ultimately, appellant submitted that the Hotel Management was ‘naturally keen’ not to disrupt guests staying within the same hotel complex.
In reply, the Authority reiterated its concerns in that the envisaged use would see guests ‘accessing the venue from the street and use the terraces directly beneath the hospital during events to socialise.’ The Tribunal was further reminded that the traffic situation in the area had deteriorated significantly in the past ten years. Approving this application would only lead to further congestion in the area which, in turn, could compromise ambulance access to Capua hospital.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the previous cases which appellant had mentioned in order to substantiate his arguments were of no relevance since none of these sites were located close to a hospital. Having said that, the Tribunal noted that the hall in question was not substantially large in size. But even so, the hotel already had an area which served as a catering facility. Against this background, the Tribunal felt that permission should be granted on condition that public access to the terrace overlooking Capua hospital be restricted.