The site in question was located in Triq Fleur De Lys, Birkirkara. Although the site was located within the development scheme, where redevelopment could therefore take place, the proposal was turned down by the Planning Commission on the following grounds:
The plans were not compliant with sanitary regulations since applicant had failed to furnish a ventilation and lighting report as required by Legal Notice 227 of 2016;
The ‘modern design of the elevation’ on Triq Fleur-de-Lys was deemed to be out of context with the rest of the streetscape. It was pointed out that the architect made no attempt at reproducing any of ‘the architectural features which are present in this streetscape’. For this reason, the development ran counter to the provisions of Policies G3, G14 and Part (b) of G23 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015.
The proposed elevation was incompatible with the Urban Objective 3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development, which aims to protect and enhance the character and amenity of urban areas;
Enemalta Corporation failed to give its go ahead to the project.
In reply, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the envisaged development was in line with regulations. In his appeal, applicant (now, appellant) made the following arguments to justify his position:
1. Contrary to what the Commission had asserted, a ventilation and lighting report duly signed by a warranted engineer was, in fact, submitted to the Planning Authority;
2. The proposed façade design was acceptable so much so that the superintendent of cultural heritage had raised no concern to that effect.
3. Moreover, the immediate streetscape had little aesthetic value, meaning that no negative visual impact with regard to the surrounding urban context was envisaged;
4. The proposal would inject life in an area which had been transformed to a commercial hub over the years;
The Enemalta had, since the decision of the Planning Commission, given the green light to the proposed development subject to a sub-station being provided within the site at basement level.
The Authority reiterated its previous objections to the proposal, pointing out that the light and ventilation report mentioned by applicant, though submitted at a late stage, still failed to address the pending sanitary concerns. In addition, the Tribunal was warned that applicant’s site was located close to an archaeological site and a ‘less modern façade design’ would have been more visually appropriate. As a final point, the Authority held that it was not against the principle of the area being regenerated as long as applicant complied to ‘other important planning considerations’.
In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately observed that applicant had indeed submitted a light and ventilation report, which it considered to be acceptable. Moreover, it was noted that the issues which applicant previously held with Enemalta were also addressed. As to the façade design, the Tribunal however concurred with the Authority and held that the proposed façade design on Triq Fleur de Lys should be ‘revised’ in view of the surrounding context so as to read as three floors. The new designs were to also incorporate a number of closed balconies as a distinct feature.