An appeal to issue a planning permit entitled “to relocate hardstone quarry (No. 9 and No. 2) from Hagar Qim to Wied Moqbol” was entertained by the Environment and Planning Tribunal in 2014, despite the MEPA making strong objections.

In fact, the Authority had argued that the site is located at Wied Moqbol in Zurrieq, which is designated as an agricultural area by virtue of Map ZU 4 of the South Local Plan. The case officer had also insisted that “agricultural land must be protected from all types of inappropriate development”.

Nonetheless, the Tribunal found in favour of the applicant who argued that the land in question is “barely cultivable as most of the site consists of exposed rock, bird hides, and low lying soil deposits”.

Indeed, the applicant also commissioned an expert, who in turn confirmed that the land in question bears no significant agricultural value. On its part, the Tribunal concluded that the proposed development involves the relocation of active quarry operations to an area within the same territory, which according to the relative Environmental Constraints Maps, does not qualify as an “agricultural zone”. On this basis, the Tribunal went on to order the MEPA to approve the permit.

Following the Tribunal’s decision, a number of objectors (who were registered according to law when the planning application was initially submitted) lodged an appeal before the Civil Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction) insisting inter alia that the permit ran counter to provisions of the Local Plan.
In its reply, the Authority pleaded, this time round, that objectors (not being the appellants before the Tribunal) do not enjoy a locus standi in Court proceedings.

In its assessment, the Court nonetheless held that paragraph 11 of the Second Schedule of Chapter 504 was amended in 2014 by virtue of LN 404/2014, to which effect a registered objector can now lodge an appeal before the Court of Appeal (Inferior Jurisdiction), despite not being an appellant before the Tribunal.

The court observed that it received the appeal on 2 January, 2015, and hence after the law was expressly changed to the above effect without any “transitory provision” to the contrary. Against this background, the court ruled that the registered objectors enjoy a locus standi in the proceedings before it and ordered that the said proceedings may resume.