A planning application proposing a timber gate providing direct access to a field (located within the Outside Development Zone of Rabat) was issued by the Environment and Planning Commission despite strong objections from a third party who alleged that the applicant had no legal title in relation to the land.

Following permit approval, the objector lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that the field in question was tilled by himself (the appellant). To support his arguments, the appellant furnished documentary evidence showing that the land in question is indeed registered with the Department of Agriculture on his behalf.

But even so, the appellant argued that the proposal is objectionable from a planning perspective since “the installation of a gate is not aiming to protect the amenity and setting of rural areas thus counter to structure Plan Policy RCO 4”. The appellant further contended that the proposed works are tantamount to the part destruction of a rubble wall, which in turn is protected by virtue of LN 169 of 2004 (which aims to prohibit any works which would endanger the integrity of such walls in the countryside).

On its part, the Authority rebutted, stating that the applicant had produced notarial evidence showing that he was the actual land owner. Notwithstanding such evidence, MEPA’s legal counsel reminded the Tribunal that applicant works can proceed on condition that consent from the relative owner (whoever he may be) is forthcoming. On a different note, MEPA’s lawyer maintained that “the proposed timber gate is to be constructed in vertical timber beams and with a width of three metres and a height of 1.2 metres above ground level” and thus limited to the height of the existing and adjoining boundary walls. With this in mind, the proposal would therefore “respect the rural characteristics of the site and the wider landscape context, particularly in terms of size and material.”

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that it has no jurisdiction to express itself on matters regarding possession. In other words, the Tribunal stated that planning decisions focus solely on planning merits, regardless of possession. The Tribunal asserted that all planning permits are as a matter of fact issued “subject to saving third party rights”. In addition, the Tribunal held that the proposed gate was justified (in planning terms) since it provides direct access. In the circumstances, the Tribunal found no reason to revoke the permit.