A development planning application entitled “restoration of a dilapidated room and widening of entrance gate within the boundary wall” was turned down by the Planning Commission after it was concluded that the “dilapidated room was not a building”. The ‘dilapidated room’ is located in a field outside the development zone of Wardija.

Further to the said decision, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that the building is a pre-1978 building. The applicant, now appellant, maintained that the building was visible on the aerial photos of 1957.

Moreover, it was pointed out that the structure served as a tool shed for a number of years and had been also used as a place for rearing of animals. Applicant pointed out that his application sought to retain the original use of room. Moreover, the proposed footprint reflected the original commitment without any lateral or vertical extensions.

With regard to the entrance gate, applicant highlighted that the designs were in line with policy 2.9 of the 2014 Rural Guidelines since the drawings showed a width of 3.5 metres, which is less that the allowable maximum width (namely, 4.5 metres). In his conclusive remarks, applicant reminded the Tribunal that his proposal was endorsed by the Heritage Planning Unit (HPU) after submitting a detailed restoration method statement. In fact, the HPU had considered that the proposed designs employed “an identical style of construction, using similar weathered stones and upon the same footprint.”

In reply, the case officer representing the Authority explained that the ‘deteriorated room’ consisted of four rectangular low walls with no roof, built in random rubble. Consequently, applicant was wrong to assert that the structure was a room. Against this background, the officer insisted that the interventions were not tantamount to ‘rehabilitation’ of an existing building but “the alteration and addition to an existing four walled, un-roofed low structure”. It was further contended that applicant was equally mistaken in giving the impression that the footprint was not to be increased since the low remnants were to be increased in height.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that applicant had failed to bring sufficient evidence to show that the building was ever structurally intact. The Tribunal went on to assert that any such intervention should only be allowed if genuinely required to complement the competitiveness of the rural economy. In this case, the Tribunal opined that the proposal was tantamount to unnecessary development outside the development zone. For this reason, the Tribunal rejected the appeal.