A planning application entitled “Proposed open yard for parking of heavy vehicles, canopy made of reversible material and construction of boundary walls”, in Xewkija, was initially approved by the MEPA board subject to an express condition stating that “the use being permitted on site shall cease after two (2) years from the publication date of this development permission”.

In other words, the permit was issued on a temporary basis, following which the site would need to be reinstated.

In reaction, the applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that the condition is “unreasonable and illogical.” The applicant explained that such condition was “never mentioned during the hearing of the application by the MEPA board.”

In his arguments, the applicant described as “senseless” the decision to construct a canopy, covering an area of 722 sq. mts. at a substantial cost, only to have it dismantled again after two years. The applicant went on to highlight that the approved development would take a minimum of six months to complete – in turn,  the canopy would in effect be used for less than 18 months “because by the end of the two year period the site will have to be “reinstated to its original state”.

As a final point, the applicant made the interesting argument that the Authority made him pay the full fees applicable for a “normal permit”, rather than for a “temporary permit”.

For his part, the case officer maintained that the permit was approved by the MEPA board because the applicant’s architect fully agreed to alter the proposal description as suggested by the board. Indeed, the applicant was aware of MEPA’s intentions since a written communication to that effect was sent prior to the final hearing.

The board had indeed justified the permit on the basis that the proposal was downscaled to ensure reversibility excluding built structures and noted further that the proposed use (namely, an open yard for parking of heavy vehicles) should be allowed until the Authority identifies an adequate site for such uses. In his conclusions, the case officer underlined that the applicant never raised an issue with respect to the fees charged by the Authority.

In its assessment, the tribunal observed that the applicant was indeed informed about the board’s intention to approve a “temporary” permit prior to the final sitting. Nonetheless, the tribunal contended that the permit conditions do not, at least prima facie, reflect the board’s intentions as expressed in the minutes. Indeed, the board had said that a permit should be issued until a policy is in place whereas the permit stipulates that the permit is only valid for two years.

In the circumstances, the Tribunal opined that it would be more reasonable to extend the validity of the permit to five years, which period should commence “from the date of issue of a Compliance Certificate (partial or full whichever is first issued)”.