The request was turned down by the Planning Commission after it held that the proposal was not in line with rural policies.
To substantiate its decision, the Commission gave the following reasons:
1. The proposal was in breach of criterion 2(a) of policy 6.2A of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance (2014) since applicant failed to provide sufficient evidence showing that the residential use of the original building was legally established or covered by development permission;
2. The internal floor area was less than 100sq., hence counter to criterion 2(d) of policy 6.2A;
3. The proposal ran counter to Thematic Objective 1.10 and to Rural Objective 3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development which states that development outside the development zone should be permitted when ‘legitimate or necessary’;
4. The proposal ran counter to criterion (3) of policy 6.2A of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance (2014) since it envisaged substantial vertical and lateral extensions to an old building.
In reply, applicant lodged an appeal against the Planning Authority insisting that the decision of the Commission should be revoked. In his arguments, applicant (now, appellant) submitted that the building was occupied by a certain Francesco Vella in the 1940s. To substantiate this, appellant forwarded an extract from the electoral register together with an affidavit from a certain Antonia Cardona who declared under oath that Vella was her grandfather, adding that she knew for a fact that he took residence in the site in question. Moreover, appellant highlighted that the current internal floor area amounted to 96sq.m if one were to include the area of the external stairs.
In reply, the Authority reiterated its concerns, noting inter alia that the building mentioned by Antonia Cardona in her affidavit referred to a location in Rabat whereas the building under examination was situated in Zebbug. On a separate note, the Tribunal was reminded that rehabilitation of rural dwellings was only permitted when ‘the internal space was at least 100sq.m’. As held previously by applicant, the current floor area was slightly less.
In its assessment the Tribunal immediately underlined that the residential use had to be ‘visible’ in the 1978 records in order for the building to qualify for rehabilitation. According to the Tribunal, appellant had not managed to convince it that this was the case. Against this background, the appeal was rejected.