The building in question was situated in Cirkewwa, outside the development zone of Mellieha.
Following a thorough assessment, the Commission turned down applicant’s request on the following grounds:
1. The building was found to have being used as a dwelling and not an agricultural store as indicated by applicant in his proposal. Besides, the site featured a number of structures which were not shown on the plans submitted by applicant’s architect;
2. Applicant was not a registered farmer and his genuine intentions were thus being contested;
3. The buildings on site had been ‘rendered and painted, fitted with large aluminium apertures, external lighting and overlying water tanks’. Moreover, the buildings were not constructed of recyclable material as required by policy. As a result, the proposal was not in line with Rural Objective 4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development 2015, which policy objective seeks to protect and enhance the positive qualities of the landscape and the traditional components of the rural landscape.
In reaction, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that permission should have been granted permission. In his preliminary arguments, applicant (now, appellant) argued that the buildings which were not shown on plans consisted of ‘a pre-1994 farmhouse as visible on the 1994 aerial photo’, which building was subsequently divided into two dwellings by the siblings after their parents passed away. While admitting that the building was extended without planning permission, appellant submitted that no such permission was required at the time. With regard to the unauthorised concrete passageway and the aluminum apertures, appellant submitted that these issues could be ‘easily resolved’.
In reply, the Authority rebutted that, in his application, applicant had made specific reference to an agriculture store. To this end, appellant could not request the Authority to sanction a residence midway in the application process. The Tribunal was reminded that a planning proposal cannot be altered once an application was validated since material changes are not permitted thereafter. [Regulation 12(5) of the Development Planning (Procedure for Applications and their Determination) Regulations, 2016]. Moreover, the Authority observed that ‘appellant was willing to submit a revised proposal at this stage and include design issues that are material to the application’ implying that ‘the Authority was correct in refusing the application.’
In its assessment, the Tribunal held that it was not convinced that the residence was legally established, adding that a planning application is required to ‘divide a residence in two’. Moreover, the Tribunal observed that the site photos showed a situation which was not reflected on the submitted plans and the application could thus not be processed further. Either way, the Tribunal noted that appellant was in possession of only two tumoli of land and was not therefore entitled to build an agricultural store, let alone a residence. Against this background, the appeal was rejected.