A planning application entitled “change of use of a shop into a cafeteria and placing of tables and chairs in the front garden” was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission after it was held that the proposal constitutes bad neighbourliness (thus, in conflict with Structure Plan Policy BEN 1 which seeks to safeguard the amenity of the existing uses).

Essentially, the proposal sought permission for the cooking and serving of food within an already licensed commercial premises in Triq Il-Halel, St Paul’s Bay having access from a common walkway.

Following the decision, the applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, stating that his application should have been approved once ‘the area in question, is already committed as an entertainment area’.

The applicant submitted a number of photos to attest that “there should be no issue of bad neighbourliness” because “the entertainment elements in the area have been years ago, amply exhausted with the developments existing in the whereabouts of the proposal.”
The applicant contended that “no new impact affecting the residents in the whereabouts will be created” by way of his proposal since his premises were already licensed as a commercial outlet.

Moreover, the applicant went on to highlight that the case officer initially entrusted with the processing of the application had referred to Policy NWCM 03 of the North West Local Plan which “permits food and drink outlets, including hot food takeaways” on condition that “the sale of food and drink for consumption on or off the premises is to be at ground floor level only.”

The applicant pointed out to the Tribunal that, in his case, the premises were located at street level. Concluding, the applicant obliged himself to install “fumes and smell absorbing equipment in case of any smells and fumes not presently anticipated and which will cause nuisance.”

For its part, the Authority stood firm with its decision. Whilst acknowledging that the premises were located in an entertainment area, the Authority observed that the outlet was accessible via a common access serving dwellings within the same block. The Authority insisted that approving the application would be tantamount to “a further loss of residential amenity in terms of disturbance, noise and loss of security within the internal development.”

In its assessment, the Tribunal immediately acknowledged that the applicant’s premises were indeed located within an Entertainment Priority Area where, strictly speaking, catering establishments are deemed acceptable. Having said that, the Tribunal maintained that the proposal would “compromise” the residential amenity due to the likely increase in the number of customers visiting the complex. For this reason, the Tribunal confirmed the Authority’s decision.