A planning application contemplating the demolition of an existing garage together with the subsequent construction of a block of apartments and underlying garages was submitted to the MEPA way back in 2004. The proposed designs include a number of dwellings located towards the rear of the site overlying internal garages having no frontage onto a public road.

The request was turned down on a number of counts. The Commission objected to any dwellings being developed without a street frontage. Moreover, the Commission found that it was not possible for ambulances and fire engines to manoeuvre within the site precincts should an emergency arise. Furthermore, the Commission raised concern with respect to privacy issues, particularly since “the light and ventilation of the proposed habitable rooms will only be available through an internal garage drive-way and an internal yard.” In addition, it was observed that the proposed vehicular access was less than 6.3 metres, as required by the policy regulating design of forecourts. Concluding, the Commission objected to the fact that the proposed balconies were not adequately setback from the relative party walls as required by the Civil Code.

As a reaction, the applicant filed an appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that he should have been granted a development permit. In his submissions, the applicant argued inter alia that access requirements were met. Moreover, it was pointed out that the designs showed a ‘landscaped yard which is common to the whole development’ and which in turn allows for adequate ventilation.  Regarding privacy concerns, the appellant pointed out that “the proposed development has windows and apertures which are more than 6.5 metres away from the adjacent building.” The appellant ultimately remarked that his proposal meets Policy 6.12 requirements in that residential development over internal garages is permitted where the garage/s  is/are  linked to a dwelling or building with a frontage on a street provided that the proposal  “would not have an adverse impact on the amenity of buildings adjoining the site in terms of outlook and privacy.” To further support his arguments, the applicant made reference to no fewer than 16 planning permissions which are  deemed ‘similar’ to his proposal.

The case officer rebutted by stating that the applicant’s site was restricted, reiterating that the proposed dwellings failed to provide a satisfactory design layout. In this case, it was recalled that “the internal residential units do not have adequate outlook, and also impinge on the privacy of other neighbouring residential uses.” As for the permits quoted by the applicant, the officer representing the Authority observed that the said permits “concern different site contexts and where different site considerations may have been applicable.”

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that policy 3.8 of the Development Control Policy & Design Guidance 2000 (the applicable policy at the time of the Commission’s decision) actually provides that residences without a street frontage  may be permitted subject to the approach road network being capable of accommodating the traffic, privacy is not compromised, a minimum 4.1 metre access  to the site is provided and the design is compatible in terms of height and scale with the adjoining property. The Tribunal came to the conclusion that the proposal was acceptable in principle, however subject to the depth of the proposed dwellings being reduced.