The Court of Appeals has annulled an Appeals Tribunal judgement which had upheld Mepa's decision not to grant a permit for the construction of a bus depot in an area outside the development zone in Zebbug.

The court ordered that the case be sent back to the Tribunal to be decided upon once again.

The court heard that on May 12, 2011, the Mepa board refused an application filed by Raymond Fenech for the building of a bus depot, including a bus parking facility, a bus maintenance shed and a bus washing facility with underground reservoirs at Zebbug.

The board had based its refusal on the basis that the site was ODZ and there was not enough justification for a bus depot to be constructed in this location.

Mr Fenech appealed, arguing that when refusing a planning application Mepa was bound to give specific reasons for the refusal, which reasons had to be based on existing plans, policies and other material considerations.  

On September 15, 2011 the Appeals Tribunal rejected Mr Fenech's appeal and confirmed the Mepa board's decision.  It gave reasons why the application filed by Mr Fenech ought to be refused.

Mr Fenech then appealed to the Court of Appeal claiming that the tribunal had not decided on the point raised by him, namely that the board had to justify its refusal of his application.  

He also submitted that the tribunal ought not to have decided upon the application particularly when it had concluded that Mepa ought to have ordered more consultations or further studies on the project.  

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti said today that the court could only examine appeals from Appeals Tribunal decisions based on a point of law.

The law was very clear when it stipulated that Mepa had to give specific reasons when refusing a development application. 

The tribunal ought not to have made good for Mepa’s omission by giving its own reasons for the refusal of the permit.

Mr Justice Chetcuti said that the Appeals Tribunal was bound to examine whether Mepa had scrupulously carried out its duties according to law.

In its judgment the Court of Appeal said that the tribunal had been mistaken when it found that Mepa’s refusal was explained in the decision.  

The application for the bus depot ought to have been decided on the basis the undisputed fact that a large part of the land in question was ODZ and the regulatory plan and policy for Areas for Open Storage which permitted ODZ development in certain circumstances.

The board had completely ignored these two issues in its decision but the tribunal had not given a ruling on this even though requested to do so by Mr Fenech.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the tribunal's decision did not satisfy the spirit or the word of the law and that it ought to have remitted the application back to the Mepa board for a new decision.  This would have enabled all the parties concerned to debate the issue thoroughly.