MEPA Watch | Sunday, 21 June 2009
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Robert Musumeci focuses on the provisions of Legal Notice 53 of 1994 (Development Planning Act)

Case Details
In today’s article I will focus on an application which was decided by MEPA this week, regarding a request made by an applicant to change the use of a premises from a bar to a snack bar. It is to be noted from the outset that both uses (the bar and snack bar) fall within the class 6 schedule provisions as defined in Legal Notice 53 of 1994 (Development Planning Act, 1992 – Development Planning (Uses Classes) Order, 1994).
The location in question concerns a small site, occupying an area of 35 square metres. The site is located in St Paul’s Street in Valletta. It goes without saying that the location in question is classified as an Urban Conservation Area. The façade features an arched topping with an interesting architectural top moulding. A closer look at the façade reveals that the doorway leading to the bar forms part of a symmetrical ornate baroque façade.
In parallel, the Grand Harbour Local Plan designates this part of St Paul Street within the Secondary Retail Frontage of the Primary Centre, whereby class 6 use is permitted.

Case Officer’s Details
In his report, the case officer pointed out that the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee (CHAC) found no objection to the proposal, provided that the air-condition units are screened. In addition, the CHAC also underlined that the apertures should be made of timber, requesting further that the façade metalworks should be of the wrought iron type. The Department of Public Health were also consulted in the process and gave no objection to such proposal. As in ordinary circumstances, the National Commission Persons with Disability were not consulted due to the fact that the site area is less than 150 square metres.
The case officer added that the proposed class 6 establishment was acceptable from a local planning point of view due to the fact that the site under review falls within a secondary retail frontage of the Primary Town Centre, where class 6 establishments are acceptable.
The case officer also highlighted the fact that there was no contention in relation to the design of the façade, since the proposed sign was already approved in a previous permit. However, the officer insisted that the air condition unit was to be screened by timber louvers and wrought iron.
The case officer went on to suggest that the proposed fume extraction system was technically backed by an engineer’s report which concluded that that the proposed extraction system would guarantee a nuisance-free environment.
The case officer also highlighted that the existing and proposed uses fall within the same schedule class provisions. Hence, the case officer recommended that the application should be approved.

DCC’s Decision
The DCC followed the positive recommendation which was made by the case officer and approved the application on Monday, 16th June 2009.

Robert Musumeci’s observations
This application was submitted to MEPA way back in December 2008. Therefore it took six months to assess an application which essentially involves a development within the same class, when at the same time the provisions of Legal Notice 53 of 1994 of the Development Planning Act provide that where a building, including land occupied with the building and used for the same purposes, or land are used for a purpose in any class specified in the Schedule, the use of that building and/or for any other purpose in the same class shall not be considered as a development, and a development permission is not required.
Consequently it follows that a MEPA application is not warranted in such a case, despite the fact that the authorities continue to insist that applicants should obtain a MEPA permit when a change of use from a bar to a snack bar is involved! Therefore, it would have been only proper if the case officer advised applicant to the effect that an application was not necessary in line with the provisions of Legal Notice 53 of 1994. In that way, applicant would have been saved of the unnecessary frustration associated with the waiting of the permit.


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