A planning application for the “rehabilitation” of a ‘British Military Ancillary Building’ situated in the limits of Gharghur (the area known as ‘Tal-Fanal’) was turned down by the MEPA’s Environment and Planning Commission after it found that the premises were subject to a pending Enforcement Notice which was issued way back in 1995.

In the circumstances, the Commission concluded that the proposal “cannot be considered further” unless the illegal development (in this case consisting of illegal residential use and unauthorised structural interventions) were specifically indicated for sanctioning on both the proposal description and the submitted drawings.

In reaction, applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting, inter alia, that he had submitted a Restoration Method Statement earlier during the application process, which was in turn endorsed by the Planning Directorate, the Heritage Restoration Unit, the Natural Heritage Advisory Committee and the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee. Applicant went on to state that, contrary to MEPA’s assertions, the building was not used as a residence even though it featured a ‘privy’, “which was used as a small barrack block to house the searchlight operators of this military station”.

On his part, the case officer rebutted, stating that the application was not refused “simply on an allegation that the site is being used illegally as a residence as stated by the appellant”.

The officer went on to allege that he is in “possession” of concrete evidence attesting the “residential use”, namely several photographs showing a bedroom, kitchen and a bathroom. More so, the officer remarked that the Land Department was equally aware that the property was being used “illegally” as a residence since the year 1995. 

As a final point, the case officer reiterated that the property featured various unauthorised extensions and alterations which were not being specifically indicated for sanctioning as required by regulations. (Regulation 14 of LN 514/10 states that “where sanctioning of illegal development is being requested in a development application, the proposal description and the drawings shall clearly indicate the development which is to be sanctioned.”).

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the Authority had in the interim period confirmed that the illegal accretions were removed by appellant in consistence with the Enforcement Order. Moreover, the Tribunal noted that the restoration method statement (submitted by applicant) proved to be acceptable. The Tribunal concluded, ordering the MEPA to issue the permit on condition that the use is limited to “agricultural stores”.