A planning application for the construction of two maisonettes and a garage in Ghajn Tuffieha was initially turned down by the MEPA’s Environment and Planning Commission after it held that “the proposed development does not satisfy the criteria as listed in the North West Local Plan Policy NWRS 3 for Category 2 ODZ Settlements”.

The commission pointed out that “the site does not fall within one of the categories defining uncommitted land within policy NWRS 3 where residential development is permitted.”

Furthermore, it was also held that the proposal runs counter to Structure Plan Policy RCO 4 which specifically provides that “areas of scenic value will be protected and enhanced”. In conclusion, the commission underlined that “there are no reasons from a planning point of view as to why the proposed development cannot be located in an area designated for development or in an existing built up area.”

In reaction, the applicant lodged an appeal against the decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal. In his appeal, the applicant (now appellant) argued that his plot is surrounded by existing buildings “on the sides and at the back”.  The appellant also made reference to a building permit which was issued on the “adjacent plot”.  Moreover, the appellant contended that “MEPA is ready to approve one of the adjacent barren plots as an end of scheme development, leaving the middle plots as vacant sites”, resulting in  an eyesore characterised by a “ barren party wall.”

In his arguments, the appellant further maintained that the area within which the site is located is of no considerable scenic value since his site is sandwiched between existing constructions. As a final remark, the appellant asserted that “the fact that the adjacent plots have been given approval for a development similar to the one being applied” is ample justification for his permit to be approved.

On his part, the case officer representing the authority reiterated that the plot is “uncommitted” since the site is neither a corner site, nor a site which abuts a row of three terraced houses as required by policy. The case officer insisted that any form of urbanisation outside the designated areas within the settlement runs counter to Structure Plan Policies SET 11 and SET 12, concluding that the applicant’s request should be dismissed.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the site lies at the very edge of a committed settlement, further noting that a planning permit for three terraced houses “in the same street” was approved. On this basis, the Tribunal ordered the Authority to issue the permit on condition that the proposed dwellings must have a minimum area of 120 square metres and the basement being limited to the footprint above street level.