The Planning Authority had granted planning permission for the construction of a terraced house in an ‘edge plot’ bordering the periphery of the schemed development boundary in Qala, notwithstanding there being a number of objections.
A third party appeal was lodged before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal following approval of the permit. In their submissions, the objectors insisted with the Tribunal that the Authority’s decision should be reversed for a number of reasons:
1. The building alignment went beyond the schemed boundary as defined in the Gozo and Comino Local Plan, as a result of which ‘almost 55% of the building’s footprint was located outside the development zone’;
2. The Environment and Resources Authority was objecting to the proposal;
3. A side garden of 1.5 metres was being provided whereas established planning policies require a minimum three-metre curtilage;
4. Traffic hazards were also envisaged in view of the ‘narrowness and the right angled shape’ of the street;
5. In the past, the Authority had turned down similar proposals, insisting that any development along the schemed periphery should be ‘contained’ within the development zone.
Nevertheless, the Planning Authority defended its decision to issue the permit. It was argued that the proposed designs provided a neat transition along the periphery of the schemed boundary. Furthermore, it was held that the proposal would cover an unsightly blank party wall.
With regard to the side garden, the case officer explained that a 1.5 metre buffer would suffice in this case since the applicant’s plot was restricted in terms of width. In point of fact, the plot had a width of seven metres – opting for a three metre side garden, as suggested by the objectors, ‘would result in a reduced built frontage and development width of just four metres’. The Authority felt that ‘this resultant reduction, besides impinging on the “reasonable quality of residential amenity/living space” would also be contrary to Policy P6 of DC2015.’
In its assessment, the Tribunal made reference to Policy P6 of DC 15 which, as a matter of principle, states that “While the development of existing edge plots located outside the Development Zone will be acceptable in principle, the Authority will ensure that a suitable transition will be achieved in terms of built volume between the sites within the Development Zone and the ODZ.”
The same policy provides that within ‘edge plots’, the development must be stepped in a manner so that “the height of development immediately adjacent to the ODZ will not be higher than 8.5 metres measured externally until it reaches the height established for the rest of the Development Zone”. The Tribunal went further to observe that terraces having a minimum depth of three metres must be provided at each and every level together with a three metre side garden ‘landscaped using indigenous species and designed in a manner to mitigate the impact of the built fabric’.
Against this backdrop, the Tribunal went to conclude that a three-metre side garden should be provided in keeping with Policy P6 – this, notwithstanding that the resultant width of the façade was now reduced to a mere four metres.