For years, a persistent issue has been making its presence felt. Imagine possessing a valuable airspace that beckons for development. Yet, the labyrinthine pathways of the planning authority dictate a mandatory provision: parking. Should this on-site parking elude existence, the outcome is stark – either the coveted permit remains elusive, or in certain scenarios, a monetary contribution, known as the Commuted Parking Payment Scheme (CPPS) or the Urban Improvement Fund (UIF), becomes imperative, contingent upon the locality and proposal’s nature.
However, a twist in this tale emerges.
Imagine the presence of on-site parking, discreetly belonging to third parties. Until recently, the Planning Authority acquiesced to this configuration, asserting that parking availability obviates the need for financial obligations, provided the parking aligns with the development’s stipulations.
Yet, herein lay a quandary. This well-intentioned practice perpetually shackled these off-site parking spaces to their designated role, without the third party’s consent. An added complexity emerged – if the third party envisaged a change in the garage’s purpose, the Planning Authority could conveniently cite the prior approval, designating the garage a pivotal component for the approved skyward development.
However, in a seminal verdict decided by the Court of Appeal (in its Inferior Jurisdiction) way back in 2014, the case of Davina Anne Borg vs L-Awtorita ta’ Malta dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar decided on the 8th October 2014 (Ap22/14) had disrupted this narrative. With clear-cut reasoning, the court implicitly denounced the practice of circumventing property owners’ rights in the name of development. Nonetheless, little progress transpired in the wake of subsequent planning applications for new airspace developments that hinged on utilizing third-party garages without securing the consent of the proprietors of said properties.
Nearly a decade later, a transformative shift has occurred. This morning, the Planning Authority has seemingly embraced a fresh perspective in a case I was acting as a lawyer on behalf of the garage owner. The Authority was convinced that garage owners shall no longer remain captive to those developing the airspace above.
This means that no longer shall a change in use of the garage, at least in this case, be stifled by the argument that the garage must be preserved for the parking of the above development.
Genuinely and sincerely, my focus in this case resided in precisely that aspect, rather than insisting that airspace developers be compelled to make a contribution to the planning authority for the parking space loss, which, regrettably, they were forced to do due to the lack of alternatives.