A planning application seeking the sanctioning of a ‘residence instead of approved stables’ was turned down by the Planning Commission. The building in question is located in an area known as Has-Saptan, outside the development zone of Ghaxaq

In its decision, the Planning Commission took note of the following considerations:

1. The proposal resulted in the creation of a new dwelling outside the development zone and was therefore in breach of approved Government policies, plans and programmes for rural areas;

2. The proposal ran counter to the Thematic Objective 1.1 0 and Rural Objective 3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development (SPED) which seek to promote ‘rural development which is legitimate or necessary’;

3. The proposed sanctioning ran counter to policies 6.2C and policy 6.3 of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance (2014) since the floor area was in excess of the maximum allowable floorspace (namely 200sq.m);

4. The building in question featured an ‘elevated basement’ extending beyond the footprint of the building;

5. The design was not compatible with the rural character of the surroundings;

6. The garage had no adequate cross-ventilation.

As a reaction, applicant lodged an appeal before the environment and planning Review Tribunal, alleging that he was receiving unfair treatment. In his defence, applicant (now, appellant) made the following arguments:

1. The Planning Authority had issued planning permission for a dwelling in Bingemma ‘on the sole evidence of an affidavit which stated that a pensioner in Australia distantly remembers that his uncle lived in the farmhouse which was subject to the application;

2. A new ODZ dwelling was granted a permit in Mosta after it was shown that the previous building was served with a water supply;

3. A permit to convert a 43sq.m structure into a dwelling in Bidnija  was issued after ‘copies of electoral registries showing that the site may have been used for residential purposes’ were released;

4. The Authority had sanctioned an extension to a building, previously having a footprint of approximately 35sq.m in Siggiewi even though the site in question was located in a scheduled Area of High Landscape Value and a Special Area of Conservation Moreover, this permit was allegedly issued after applicant submitted an extract from the 1954 electoral register;

Applicant pointed out that he had likewise submitted extracts from the 1965 and 1975 electoral registers in order to show that “residents used to live on site prior to 1992.”

In reply, the case officer underlined that notwithstanding applicant’s sworn declarations, no buildings were visible on either the 1965 or 1975 aerial photos, adding that he failed to understand “how the residents mentioned in the affidavit used to live in a ‘non-existent’ farmhouse.”

Likewise, the Tribunal was unimpressed with applicant’s arguments after it held that the only roofed building shown in the relative 1978 aerial photos consisted of a 12sq.m building. Against this background, the Tribunal held against applicant and confirmed the Authority’s decision.