A development planning application entitled “change of use from farm to residential unit and agricultural store including related alterations to the existing building within the footprint of the same building” was turned down by the Environment and Planning Commission.

This was after it held that the proposed change of use (from a disused farm building into residential unit) ran counter to criterion 5(c) of policy 6.2C of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance (2014) in that “there is no sufficient evidence that the farm has been disused since 2014.”

Moreover the Commission found that the proposed drawings did not satisfy the current sanitary regulations since the en-suite facilities lacked ventilation. Incidentally, the building in question is located outside the development zone of Siggiewi.

As anticipated, the applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. In his submissions, it was argued that the farm was put into disuse in 2003 as evidenced by the veterinary officer. With regard to the sanitary issues, the applicant contended that he was not made aware of these shortcomings during the application process.

In reply, the Authority reiterated that the applicant was mistaken to assert that the farm had ceased operations “for at least 10 years prior to the coming into force of the Rural Policy and Design Guidance”. The case officer made express reference to a site inspection which was carried out in May 2013, during which “a number of animals were found on site”. But even so, it was highlighted that planning policies were designed to encourage “redevelopment and conversion of existing farm buildings” where such buildings constitute “a negative environmental impact on the site and its surroundings.”

In this particular case, the Authority was of the firm opinion that the present building was not creating any significant environmental impacts on the site and its surroundings. In relation to the applicant’s suggestion to submit drawings in order to address pending sanitary issues, the case officer insisted that fresh drawings could not be entertained at appeals stage.

In its assessment, the Tribunal made reference to policy 6.2c which inter alia states that “permission may be granted for the total redevelopment of an existing building, or the consolidation of buildings, located outside development zone” provided inter alia that “the applicant can sufficiently prove that the building/s is covered by development permission (other than those specifically permitted for agricultural use after the coming into force of this policy document), or that it is/are/was a pre-1978 building/s.”

In addition, the same policy provides that a single dwelling may be permitted when the standing building consists of “a disused livestock farm which has ceased operation for at least 10 years and which is creating a negative environmental impact on the site and its surroundings”. The Tribunal noted that in this case, the Veterinary Department had confirmed that the farm was no longer registered after 2004 though animals were found on site in subsequent years.

Against this background, the Tribunal held in favour of the appellant.