A planning application for the construction of a pool on the roof of a Sliema residence was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission after it concluded that “the proposed development is incompatible with the urban design and environmental characteristics of the Urban Conservation Area.”

The drawings show a proposed pool and a cantilevered deck located at roof level, the latter having a setback of 2 metres with respect to the front façade alignment.  The Commission also underlined that the cantilevered deck would not maintain the visual integrity of the area and so does not comply with Structure Plan policy BEN 2.  Moreover, it was held that the proposed development runs counter to Structure Plan policy UCO10 in that it would adversely affect views of the Urban Conservation Area and detract from the traditional urban skyline. As a final point, the Commission observed that the premises featured an illegal railing along the front and side elevations immediately below current roof level.

The applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that proposed development would be “contained” within the total permissible envelope, which amounts to three floors and an overlying receded floor. The now appellant also referred to a third party planning application for the construction of three floors which was indeed approved “on the same side of High Street”.

The appellant took umbrage at the Authority’s allegations stating that his development is ‘unsympathetic’ and ‘incompatible’ with the characteristics of the Urban Conservation Area when it was common knowledge that the same Authority approved similar developments in UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Mdina and Valletta.  In conclusion, appellant remarked that the Heritage Advisory Committee assessed his application and “gave positive feedback”.

On its part, the Authority rebutted, stating that the application could not be processed further since applicant made no attempt to sanction the illegal railings. More so, the case officer highlighted once again that the proposed additions are not compatible with good urban design. 

In addition, the officer reiterated that the submitted drawings show a cantilever on the topmost floor projecting by 3 metres onto the lower roof level, thus resulting in an inadequate setback of 2 metres  from the front elevation. Such intervention, according to the case officer, would  “detract from the traditional urban skyline of the UCA and considered to run counter to Structure Plan Policy UCO 10.”

In its assessment, the Tribunal agreed with the Authority in that the cantilevered pool deck would “detract  from the traditional UCA skyline”. Having said that, the Tribunal concluded that the pool design was otherwise acceptable even though it was being proposed at roof level. With regards to the railings, the Tribunal observed that appellant submitted fresh drawings showing a masonry ‘opramorta’ instead. Against this background, the Tribunal acceded to appellant’s request on condition that the proposed deck is eliminated altogether.