The Planning Commission considered that the site in question was located outside the development zone of Birzebbugia and turned down applicant’s request on the following grounds:
1. The parking of heavy vehicles ran counter to the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan Policies which hold that no development would be permitted outside the development zone, unless considered to be essential;
2. The proposal failed the criteria listed in the Policy Guidance for open storage areas;
3. The applicant was already in possession of other structures which he could use for the purpose of a fodder store. Thus, the proposal was incompatible with Thematic Objective 1.10 of the Strategic Plan for Environment & Development which provides that rural development is to be allowed when it is considered to be legitimate or necessary;
Following the said decision, applicant lodged an appeal before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, insisting that his application should have been granted permission. In his appeal application, applicant (now, appellant) put forward the following arguments:
1. He had told the Planning Commission that he was willing to amend the proposal so as to include ‘only permissible development on site’. Nevertheless, the said request was ignored by the Commission and the latter went on to reject the application;
2. Applicant was a building contractor who was in dire need of an area where to park his heavy vehicles at night time close to his residence that was ‘constructed legally on site’;
In reply, the Authority reiterated its strong opposition to the application. The Tribunal was reminded that it was completely up to the Planning Commission as to whether to grant the deferral. Moreover, it was alleged that the site featured various illegalities which included the construction of various rooms without prior authorisation as well as the dumping of scrap of construction material.
In addition, the Authority held that the presence of a residence does not give a right to having a parking area for heavy vehicles in a rural area.
As a final point, the Authority held that in trying to amend his proposal, applicant was admitting that the Authority was correct in refusing his application.
In its assessment, the Tribunal observed that applicant’s intentions were to construct a fodder store, park his heavy vehicles next to his own residence and plant additional trees.
The Tribunal noted that the Authority signalled no objection in relation to the residence and the nearby structures which applicant indicated as having existed prior to 1978.
It was further held that the land adjacent to applicant’s dwelling consisted of a wide disturbed access. The Tribunal saw that the applicant’s proposal was acceptable subject to the heavy vehicles being parked in the said ‘disturbed’ location. On the other hand, the Tribunal considered that the proposed fodder store was not justified.
The Authority was ordered to issue the permit subject to the removal of another room which was found to be illegal, and rehabilitating the remaining substantial part of the site with soil.