A development planning application contemplating various structural interventions including the sanction of unauthorised structural additions was turned down by the Planning Commission even though applicant had insisted that the site had been “committed” with development before 1978. The site in question is situated outside the development zone of Qrendi.
To justify its decision, the Commission held inter alia that the proposed interventions ran counter to planning policies, citing the provisions of policy 6.2C of the Rural Policy & Design Guidance (RPDG) 2014 which essentially provide that redevelopment may only be considered when the proposed floor area reflects that “of the 1978 rooms”. Moreover, the Commission underlined that applicant, in this case, was neither a registered farmer nor an animal breeder. On this basis, the proposal was found to be in breach of planning policy.
Following the said decision, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, requesting the Tribunal to reverse the decision. In his defence, applicant (now, appellant) said that he was submitting himself “to the judgement of the Tribunal and will stand by the decision of the Tribunal as to the depth of the first floor room as previously existing”. “Should the Tribunal decide to approve solely the 1978 construction at first floor”, appellant agreed that he would “humbly submit to this decision” and therefore requested the Tribunal “to direct the depth at first floor level”. In other words, the Tribunal was called to define the extent of commitment that had existed prior to the year 1978 and decide accordingly.
In reply, the case officer contended that the proposed aggregate floor area measured 190 square metres, highlighting that “the 1978 aerial photos indicate the presence of a room at first floor level, which does not extend to the facade of the building and is much smaller than what is being currently proposed.” The Tribunal was reminded that applicant had ignored the Directorate’s suggestions to scale down the proposal, limiting the size of the rooms to what was visible in the 1978 aerial photos. Moreover, the Agricultural Advisory Committee had objected to the proposal since applicant was not a registered farmer, nor a livestock breeder, and no proof of arable farming to justify the use of the stores was forthcoming.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the proposed area was larger than what had existed in 1978. It further noted that an open area linking the old rooms at ground level was roofed recently. In addition, applicant had failed to bring sufficient evidence attesting that he is a genuine farmer. Against this background, the Tribunal went on to dismiss the appeal.