A planning application for the placement of two free-standing billboards fronting Tal-Balal Road was turned down by the Planning Commission on the following two grounds:
The location in question consisted of a piece of land, previously a field, turned into a parking area without prior authorisation. In principle, the illegal development had to be removed prior to processing the application and determine whether the proposal was acceptable from a planning point of view;
Even so, the site in question was not one of the designated sites identified in the Policy and Design Guidance regulating placement of new billboards.
Further to the said decision, applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that his request should have been approved. To substantiate his arguments, applicant (now, appellant) submitted that contrary to what the Authority had alleged, the premises were not used as a car park.
Appellant pointed out that Transport Malta had not objected to his proposal. In addition, it was observed that new billboards were not restricted to those locations identified by policy – although as a rule, ‘there should be strict control over new sites apart from those indicated in the relative maps’, appellant contended that other locations (not identified by policy) could be permitted provided the following requirements were met:
The advertisements or signage would not be injurious to amenity by virtue of size, position, location and proliferation;
The materials and structure were sympathetic to the surroundings;
A high standard of design and detail (in terms of height, width, depth and overall scale) was achieved;
If illumination was required, this was to be accommodated within the advertisement structure;
The siting was not such that it impaired the sightlines to any directional, hazard or warning signs or any traffic lights, pelican crossing beacons and pedestrian crossing;
The billboard was positioned in such manner that it would not obstruct sightlines in any way or direction.
In reply, the Authority stood by its decision to refuse the application, reiterating that ‘there was no apparent justification as to why the proposed billboard could not be located within anyone of the designated sites indicated in policy’. The Tribunal was further reminded that the location in question consisted of a traffic junction, hence the risk to approaching traffic.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that it was not convinced that applicant had a connection with the illegal parking, adding that the Authority was, in any case, not prevented from executing direct action. On the other hand, the Tribunal held that the proposed location consisted of a traffic junction – the fact that Transport Malta had not objected to the proposal could not be taken to mean that the proposed billboards would not compromise the traffic sightlines. For this reason, the Tribunal confirmed the Authority’s decision to refuse the permit.