The said townhouse was located outside the Urban Conservation Area of St Julian’s. Following a thorough assessment, applicant’s request was rejected by the Planning Commission on grounds of ‘historic value’. The Commission made reference to earlier comments made by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, who had observed that the property was ‘one of a series of late nineteenth or late twentieth century houses whose architectural and historic value is enhanced by its location within the series of surviving houses along the street.’
The demolition of the façade was thus considered objectionable. Against this backdrop, the Commission held that the proposal ran counter to Thematic Objective 8 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) which aims at safeguarding and enhancement of the cultural heritage as well as Urban Objective 3 of the same SPED which further aims to protect and enhance the character and amenity of urban areas. Even more so, the proposed elevation was also found not to be in keeping with the remaining streetscape.
In response, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT), insisting that permission should have been granted. In his appeal application, applicant (now, appellant) alleged that he was denied a fair hearing due to ‘the chairperson refusing to put on screen streetscape elevations and other documentation’ which he submitted in order to gain a better understanding of the site context.
This failure, according to appellant, amounted to a ‘procedurally deficient, flustered, and vitiated’ hearing. Insofar as the proposed demolition, it was pointed out that the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage was prevented from expressing his concerns when the site was located outside the urban conservation area such as in this case. Finally, the Tribunal was reminded that the Authority had approved the demolition of a number of buildings next to his property, even though these were considered of ‘higher architectural quality’ than his property.
In reply, the case officer stood by the Commission’s decision.
The officer rebutted by saying that appellant’s allegations that he was not given a fair hearing before the Commission were totally unfounded. While acknowledging that applicant’s site was located outside the urban conservation area, it was further pointed out that the applicant’s building ‘formed part of a series of surviving houses along a unique streetscape’ and should therefore be retained. As to whether the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage acted beyond his remit, it was underlined that the latter was a statutory consultee recognised by law and the Commission was therefore obliged to lend weight to what he had to say.
In its assessment, the Tribunal made specific reference to the concerns raised by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage who had observed that the property in question was one of a series of late nineteenth or late twentieth century houses and should be therefore preserved ‘up to and including the roofline cornice’. Notwithstanding, the Tribunal assessed that the surrounding streetscape had its context compromised along the years due to a number of recent reconstructions. The Tribunal could see no benefit in insisting about the preservation of an old façade being located in an unalike urban streetscape. For this reason, the Tribunal ordered the Authority to issue permission.