A development application contemplating the “reconstruction” of an agricultural store situated in the limits of Zurrieq was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission. Although the description of the application refers to the “reconstruction of a collapsed roof”, the proposed drawings show a new room which is yet to be constructed, having an area equivalent to circa 45 square metres and an external height of 3.4 metres.

The Commission considered that the request was tantamount to a “relocation”. At the same time, the Commission underlined that the applicant had failed to demonstrate that the original building was covered by a development permit or that it existed prior to 1978. Consequently, the Commission concluded that the applicant’s proposal ran counter to paragraph (1) of Policy 6.2C of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance (2014) and refused the application.

In reaction, the applicant appealed the decision before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, arguing that his proposal seeks to relocate an agricultural store “that is visible on the 1957 plan”. The applicant stated that case law has consistently shown that the structural replacement of buildings which appear on the pre-1967 survey sheets is acceptable “unless these rooms have a visual impact on the surroundings and are not built in accordance with the relevant ODZ characteristics.”

As a final point, the applicant remarked that the foundations of the old structure were still evident on site.

On its part, the Authority reiterated that the 1957 Survey Sheets cannot be considered as sufficient proof attesting that the structure is legally established since no structures could be traced on the applicant’s site.  Against this background, the Authority insisted that the applicant’s request needs to be assessed in the light of policies regulating new agricultural stores.

In this case, the applicant cultivates 11 tumoli of land and is thus not considered eligible for a new agricultural store of 45 square metres.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the 1957 survey sheets feature the presence of ruins on the applicant’s site. Therefore, it was not in a position to conclude with certainty whether a room was ever in place. Moreover, the Tribunal was not convinced that the proposal was aimed “to support development that is essential and genuine to the needs of sustainable agriculture and rural development in order to complement the competitiveness of the rural economy” as required by Policy. Against this background, the Tribunal confirmed the Commission’s decision.