A planning application for the sanctioning of ‘a wooden frame canopy structure on the roof of the house’ was rejected by the Planning Authority. The residence in question is located within the urban conservation area of Sliema, precisely in Stella Maris Street.

The Planning Commission concluded inter alia that the said wooden frame was not compliant with planning policy.  Express reference was made to policy 10.4 of the 2007 Development Control Policy & Design Guidance regulating residential rooms on the roof of terraced houses and maisonette development. Even so, it was observed that the proposal conflicts with other policies, notably policy NHSJ06 of the North Harbour Local Plan which in turn, regulates height envelopes and frontage widths in Sliema.

The Commission reasoned that the canopy would occupy a substantial part of the roof, beyond the permitted height limitation. According to the Commission, the development ‘would detract from the overall objectives of the Structure Plan for the preservation and enhancement of buildings, spaces and townscapes within Urban Conservation Areas.’

In reaction, the applicant lodged a detailed appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that he was ‘surprised and disappointed’ by the way his case had been treated. The applicant argued that he was ‘one of the few remaining that are investing and improving a house of a historical beauty, rather than tearing it down to make flats or profits’.

It was underlined that the roof structure consists of ‘a wooden high quality canopy with retractable shade that perfectly blends in the surrounding area’.   The need for a shade on the roof, which applicant described ‘of supreme quality and designed by a top Italian manufacturer’, was driven by the idea to ‘preserve and improve the quality of the building without compromising on its original beauty’. The canopy should also result in the ‘reduced usage of air conditioning units by at least 25%’.  As a final point, appellant remarked that his proposal did not ‘affect the façade’, adding that there was a genuine effort on his part ‘to maintain original features’, introducing a canopy ‘of the same tone of the next house’ with a curtain which was conspicuous ‘only on a sunny day’.

On his part, the case officer insisted that the proposed wooden structure could not be described as  ‘a traditional feature of a townhouse’. In addition, there was no evidence to show that the precedents quoted by the appellant were indeed covered by a planning permit.

In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that the wooden structure was easily demountable. Nevertheless, the Tribunal stressed the importance ‘to preserve and enhance all buildings, spaces, townscape and landscape which are of Architectural or Historic Interest’.  It was pointed out that no structures should be permitted which could possibly detract from the traditional urban skyline. Concluding, the Tribunal maintained that the Authority was correct to observe that the canopy ‘detracts’ from the balanced visual composition of the streetscape. Against this background, the Authority’s decision to turn down the appellant’s application was confirmed.