A development planning application providing for the demolition of an ‘existing residence’ followed by the construction of a new dwelling was turned down by the Planning Commission. The building in question was located in a Category 3 settlement outside the development zone of Rabat.

In its decision, the Commission took note of the following considerations:

1. The height of the proposed building was deemed to exceed the allowable height limitation stipulated in Local Plan policy NWRS 3;

2. The proposal was in breach of policy P36 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 since the design envelope was not stepped down ‘to reflect the profile of the existing topography’;

3. The proposed dwelling floorspace exceeded the area permitted at law, namely 200 square metres.

4. Aggrieved by the decision, the applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, claiming that the permit should have been granted. In his submissions, applicant (now, appellant) indicated that ‘various permits were issued for similar works’ within walking distance of his site. Moreover, appellant pointed out that the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage had not objected to his proposal, highlighting that ‘in principle there should be no issue with the demolition of the existing building and its replacement with a new building’.

5. In addition, the Tribunal was reminded that fresh drawings were submitted, showing an aggregate dwelling floorspace of 200 square metres, as required by policy. Appellant underlined that his site was sandwiched between two streets situated at different levels. For this reason, an ‘extra floor’ was inevitable due to the steep gradient linking the two streets. Furthermore, appellant went on to conclude that his development would screen a blank party wall and the proposed height was, in any event, similar to that of the building next door.

In reply, the case officer representing the Planning Authority warned that the proposal was in breach of planning policies, reiterating that ‘the impact of a basement plus ground and first floor levels in relation to the sloping nature of the existing streetscape’ was visually unacceptable. The permits mentioned by applicant concerned other sites which, by contrast, were not characterised by a ‘heavy slope’. In conclusion, the Tribunal was reminded that policy NWRS 3 permits the redevelopment of existing buildings on the premise that the proposal would “not have a detrimental effect on the character of the settlement and the surrounding landscape.”

In its assessment, the Tribunal acknowledged that the proposal envisaged three floors in an ODZ Category 3 Settlement.  Having said that, the Tribunal observed that the site was located between two streets situated at different levels. The construction of two floors above upper street level was permitted whereas a three-storey elevation at lower street level was inevitable. Against this background, the Authority was ordered to issue the permit provided applicant submits fresh drawings showing smaller facade apertures.