A planning application entitled ‘Proposed construction of two additional dwelling units at roof level of existing building’ was turned down by the Planning Commission. Essentially, the drawings show the proposed introduction of two units on the roof of a three storey building in Triq Sant Ubaldesca, Paola.

The Commission however found that the proposal went against Policies U02.3 and UO2.4 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development. Indeed, the Commission specified that the structural additions ‘would adversely affect the setting of the Urban Conservation Area (UCA) and detract from the traditional urban skyline’ even though the proposed extension would have been receded from the building line. Indeed, it was highlighted that the proposed setback floor is higher than the existing committed prevailing height and ‘does not respect the context of the area.’

As a reaction, the applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his submissions, the applicant argued that the designs showed a proposed ‘setback from the street facade and thus won’t be visible from the street’. Referring to the properties on the other side of the road, appellant pointed out that the development was of a similar height.

In reply, the Authority observed that in the applicant’s case, the UCA boundary ran ‘across the middle of the street’. This meant that the applicant’s property was subject to a regime which had to be distinguished from the corresponding policy framework relative to other properties across the road. As a result, the Authority held that the buildings across the road were not tantamount to a justified commitment. It was further underlined that the setting of the Urban Conservation Area and its skyline are to be protected ‘by not allowing such high buildings’.

Reference was also made to Policy P39 of DC2015 which states that ‘the setback from the facade must never be less than that of the committed adjacent properties on one or both sides, where applicable’. In the given circumstances, no setback floor could be allowed since the applicant’s site was not bounded by similar commitment. (As a fact, the adjacent third party properties were built on one level.)

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that new development within Urban Conservation Areas is regulated by Policy U02.3 of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development, which relies on the principle of a ‘context driven approach’ in as far as building heights are concerned. The Tribunal also referred to Policy P39 of DC15 which in turn provides that the setback from a façade must never be less than that of the committed adjacent properties on one or both sides. In this case, the Tribunal felt that the adjacent properties did not provide the required commitment to justify the proposal. Against this background, the appeal was rejected.