In deciding to grant the application, the Authority observed that the site was located within the development scheme and the additional floors were to be located within the permitted building envelope.
Nevertheless, a number of tenants living in the same block objected to the permit and went on to lodge an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In their rikors (appeal application), the objectors put forward the following grievances:
1. According to the approved plans, the current lift will not reach the new roof levels. This implied that the tenants would be subjected to a considerable hardship ‘brought about by the added flights of steps whenever access to the roof is needed’. Even though the installation of a lift called for ‘some major internal modifications, among which the demolition and the re-installation of the staircase’ , more so ‘since it will also involve the relocation of the tenants for the duration of the works’, a lift to serve the six storey block was a necessity;
2. The drawings were ‘flawed’, due to not reflecting the actual situation in the common parts;
3. The proposed balconies on elevation were not uniform with the design of the ‘present balconies’;
4. Once construction takes place as approved, the roof area will have to be shared among seven flats. This meant that the current tenants would have their current area reduced;
5. The current drainage system already experienced ‘some difficulties’, namely ‘periodic blocking’, due to the fact that the drains that carry the wastewater to the sewer lines were shared with the neighbouring block and another flat.
6. Once the new units are built, the situation could only get worse.
7. The works will inevitably cause inconvenience ‘over a protracted period’, giving rise to damage to the air condition equipment at roof level which have to be shifted.
In reply, the Planning Authority stood firm with its decision to issue the permit. In primis, it was highlighted that the objectors occupied the flats on lease, hence not the property owners. Furthermore, the Tribunal was reminded that there was no statutory obligation on the applicant to render the complex fully accessible. As to the proposed façade design, the Authority thought that the proposed design would ‘add visual interest in the façade’, while noting that ‘the verticality of the apertures’ would be retained.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the objectors were correct in stating that no lift was being provided to reach roof level. The Tribunal, however, observed that there was no obligation on an applicant to provide a lift when the number of apartments is less than 30. As to the alleged erroneous plans, the Tribunal acknowledged that the drawings were not necessarily precise, however the discrepancies were not seen to be material to the decision.
With regard to the façade design, the Tribunal opined that the design was in harmony with the rest of the façade. As to the remaining grievances, the Tribunal noted that these were of a proprietary nature and should be addressed before a court of law. Against this backdrop, the Tribunal concluded that there was no reason to revoke the permit.