Fabian Demicoli

GRTU-MEPA Consultation Meeting: Use Class Order


GRTU held a consultation meeting in
conjunction with MEPA, as a follow up to the MEPA General Meeting held earlier
this year, on the proposed new Use Class Order. Present for the meeting were
MEPA Chairman Austin Walker, CEO Ian Stafrace and Joseph Gauci, Unit Manager of
the Forward Panning Unit, who delivered the presentation. GRTU President Paul
Abela chaired the meeting.

MEPA CEO Ian Stafrace said that such
a consultation meeting is important in order to make sure that as far as possible
all situations are taken into consideration and that the change does really
reflect the day to day needs of users. An aim of this decision was to give uses
better representation and if no permit is considered to be required by MEPA
because change in class will not consist in greater impact, permits will not
longer be required.

The CEO also said that the new Use
Class Order gives the possibility that if you are a business in Class 6 and
decide to change to Class 4 and then decide again to change to Class 6, you
will no longer need to apply for a MEPA permit to change to Class 4 as there is
no greater impact that will be created and you will not have to re-apply for a
MEPA permit to change back to Class 6, as this right would be retained. Whereas
with the new system no MEPA permits would be required for change of use,
currently, for this particular case, one would need to reapply twice.

Mr Gauci explained that the Use Class
Order is essentially the grouping of different businesses in a system of
classes according to the land use and environmental impacts, which are utilized
by MEPA as a reference in order to assess proposals for change. The need for a
revision was felt because the present Use Class Order was established in 1994
and since then new concepts and situations have developed that do not fit well
in the current class system and policies have also developed that have required
such a revision in order to ensure compatibility. The Use Classes Order however
cannot be interpreted without the framework of subsidiary legislation such as
local plans and planning guidances.

Article 4
uses

MEPA is proposing to add and remove a
number of land uses under this article. Uses falling under this Article cannot
be combined with other uses and therefore in other classes because of their
significant and specific impact. Applications for use falling under this
article require an individual assessment through the submission of an
application for development permission. For example the manufacture of concrete
and concrete products has wide ranging environmental impacts whilst food
take-aways and bakeries have a range of more localised impacts but may cause
nuisance and have impacts on the amenity of the area in which they are to be
located, and so these impacts require assessment.

New uses such as take aways, lotto
offices, gaming and betting shops will be added whilst goldsmith, silversmith,
taxi businesses and hire of vehicles are being reintegrated into the list of
classes and therefore removed from Article 4.

Class 3

This class was simply renamed Tourism
Accommodation and includes a new category – Palazzini / Small Boutique Hotels.

Class 4

Class 4 (retail) has been revamped
since currently all retail uses are grouped together in Class 4. Taking account
of the Retail Planning Guidelines, it is proposed to replace this Class with
five specific classes. (A-Small Shops, B-Showrooms greater than 250sqm,
C-Pharmacies greater than 75sqm, D-Supermarkets, E-Any other shops). Uses
within these Classes have similar impacts, whilst this grouping will also
facilitate the implementation of the policy, so that, for example, a change to
or from a showroom cannot take place without development permission.

New applications will be regarded as
development depending on whether they require a change of use or not. For
example change of use from a private car garage to a small retail outlet would
still require a change of use.

Class 6

Food and Drink outlets would now
include retail facilities (Class 4A, 4B, 4C, 4E) without the need for applying
for a change of use.

Class 8

Split into 2 new categories:

8A:
Kindergarten, crèche, day nursery or day centre. These normally cater for
relatively small groups of young children and so usually occupy small premises.
Their impacts are usually relatively limited in scale, particularly in terms of
traffic generation and parking.

8B:
Residential or non residential school, college, or training centre. These are
larger in scale, with more pupils and with greater traffic and other impacts.

Both change of uses to 8A and 8B
would require  a permit but the impact
and scale of the wide continuum of uses within class 8 is would now be
differentiated.

Class 11

MEPA felt Goldsmith or Silversmith
(previously under article 4) should be re-integrated with the Crafts Industry
therefore Class 11 would now include goldsmith or silversmith. The local plan
policies covering residential areas impose that all Class 11 uses within
residential areas which are post August 2006 need to conform to the stipulated
scale of 50sqm. This without prejudice to other amenity considerations when
this use is applied in residential areas.

Industrial
Parks

There will be a distinction between
parks managed by a statutory competent entity such as Malta Industrial Parks
(MIP) and the parks that to date are still unmanaged.

For parks managed by a statutory
competent entity within the framework of an approved masterplan, all changes of
use would require a DNO (however any operational procedures such as
environmental permits if required would still need to be undertaken).

Parks that are unmanaged and envisage
changes for Class 11 a,b,c, from Class 11 to 12, from Classes 12-16 to 11 and
from Classes 13-16 to 12 would require DNO notification. All other developments
would be required to undergo the development permit procedure.

Class 18

With the scope of facilitating the
diversification of the rural economy this Class will be split into 2 new
categories:

18
A Agriculture

18
B Agri-businesses.

These classes would be now
contemplated to allow for a distinction between pure agricultural activities
and agri-businesses.

Class 21

This new class would be created for
the taxi businesses and car hire. Change to Class 22 would not require a
development permit.

Class 22

This new class would be created for
the sale or display for sale of motor vehicles. Change to Class 21 would not
require a development permit.

Outside the context of the amendments
to Development Planning (Use Classes) Order 1994, a number of changes are also
planned for the Development Notification Order (DNO). These are intended to
simplify procedures for shifts between different types of floorspace within
shopping and business complexes and changes of use from shops to offices and
offices to dwellings amongst others. A new DNO is currently being drafted to
consider minor rehabilitation and restoration works on scheduled buildings.

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