A development planning application to renew a permission for the “upgrading” of stables was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission, even though the applicant had been granted a permit in 2009. The site is located outside the development zone of Luqa, with a direct access from Triq il-Kunsill ta’ l-Ewropa.

The architect in charge of the application had indicated that the stables were intended for the “keeping of horses for human consumption”. The Commission however found that the “stables” were converted to a restaurant. Moreover, the applicant carried out a series of structural alterations which were not shown in the approved plans.

Against this background, the Commission concluded that the proposal was not considered to be “essential to the genuine needs of agriculture” since the farm was evidently “no longer in operation”. Reference was also made to Rural Objective 3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) which seeks to militate against unjustified rural development. 

The applicant felt aggrieved by the decision and lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his submissions, the applicant rebutted that the premises were not being used as a restaurant. More so, the “electrical services had been suspended”. It was also noted that the Agricultural Advisory Committee had found no objection to the application on condition that the “the farm capacity would be limited to seven horses”. As a final point, the applicant maintained that it was nonsensical not to renew the permit since “over 65%” of the approved building had been constructed. 

The case officer representing the Planning Authority confirmed that the premises were no longer being used as a restaurant. Having said that, it was highlighted that a number of illegalities (such as the construction of a toilet and extensive paving works) were still present on site. For this reason, the Authority reiterated that it was correct not to renew the permit.

In its assessment, the Tribunal found no reason to dismiss a request to renew a permit if the second application is submitted when the original permit is still valid. Moreover, the Tribunal observed that the Authority had noted that there was considerable on site commitment deriving from a valid permit. Consequently, the Tribunal thought that it made more sense to “finish off” the works in line with the original permit. Against this background, the Tribunal held that the 2009 permit should be renewed subject to the removal of any unauthorised works.