The proposal was turned down by the Planning Commission on the following grounds:
1. The development as carried out was in breach of criterion (i) of Local Plan policy NWRS 3, this being the applicable policy for sites falling within Category 2 ODZ Settlements. This is because the footprint at basement level exceeded 150 sq.m, that is to say the maximum footprint area permitted by the said policy, that is
2. The building was higher than the height which was permitted at law, that is two floors;
3. The elevated basement was considered to be incompatible with the character of the streetscape;
4. The design of the openings on one of the facades lacked symmetry.
5. Following the said decision, applicant filed an appeal against the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that his request should have been approved. In his rikors (appeal application), applicant, now appellant, put forward the following arguments:
6. The Rural Policy and Design Guidance, having been published in 2014, was deemed to supersede Policy NWRS 3 of the North West Local Plan which was issued in 2006. According to the rural policy, a basement was permitted as long as it was confined to the committed footprint;
7. As for the elevated basement, to which the Authority found objection, the Tribunal was reminded that there were similar commitments in the immediate vicinity;
8. Contrary to what the Authority had purported, the building façade, not only did not lack symmetry, but it provided “an interesting facade vis-à-vis the context of the area”;
9. The overall height of the building totaled 11 metres “which is within the overall permissible height according to Annex 2 of the DC2015”.
In reply, the Planning Authority acknowledged that the site was located within a designated Category 2 Rural Settlement and was therefore subject to policy NWRS 3 of the North West Local Plan. It was underlined that the basement extension measured 185 sq.m, whereas the said policy NWRS 3 permitted a maximum overall area of 150 sq.m.
In this context, the Authority warned that “a departure from the Local Plan policy will only result in a development that will not respect the remaining built context within this Category 2 rural settlement and will thus render the Local Plan exercise for this area as fruitless”. As to the façade design, the Authority observed that the building design was “monolithic” and visually unacceptable.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the Authority’s main concerns were associated with the basement having an area exceeding 150 sq.m and the building façade which was higher than 11.4 metres. Nevertheless, the Tribunal concluded that the site context was characterized by similar buildings also having an elevated basement. Against this background, the Tribunal issued the permit subject to a fine of €1,197.76.