A draft Rural Policy and Design Guidance which seeks to review the 2014 policy has been published for public consultation the Planning Authority announced.
The Chairperson of the Planning Authority’s Executive Council Martin Saliba explained that the draft policy is not only in sync with the spirit of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development but, more importantly, seeks to prioritise that rural areas are intended to sustain the farming community while providing the public with a space to get away from the daily urban life and experience the natural richness of the Islands’ countryside and its biodiversity and natural heritage.
The Planning Authority said that the revised policy seeks to bring about more clarity by which it gives explicit definitions to the meaning of certain terminology used in the document. For example, an existing building in a rural area clearly excludes any temporary or makeshift structures or ruins, trapping or hunting hides, and similar structures. The previous definition that an existing building is a permitted building or a pre-1978 building which can be seen on the aerial photos has been removed.
The draft policy is recommending a number of amendments to policies regulating development related to the agriculture sector and value-added activities;
- Increase in the herd size for cows, sheep or goats for eligibility for new livestock farmer’s dwelling.
- Dwellings for arable farmers will be prohibited.
- The land requirements for eligibility for agricultural stores is proposed to become more restrictive.
- Development related to agriculture value-added activities will be limited to boutique wineries, olive oil production and honey-processing only.
- The conversion of a farm for visitor attractions will be restricted to only 25% of the existing buildings.
- Tourism accommodation shall only be allowed on existing farmers’ dwelling, where the farmer would host tourists.
- The existing dwelling cannot be smaller than 100sqm and not larger than 250sqm.
- In both instances, the applicant has to be a registered farmer for at least five years and companies will not be allowed to apply.
- The draft policy has made it clear that no new stand-alone buildings for stables shall be permitted.
The Planning Authority continued to explain that the policy also mentions what uses will be permitted for the redevelopment of buildings in the Rural Area. Only scheduled buildings in rural areas can be converted into a residence. This will only be considered if one dwelling unit with a minimum floor space of 100sqm is created.
Extensions to dwellings can only be considered if the property in question is visible on the 1978 aerial photos and has been used as a residence before 1978. The extension can be no more than 50% of the current floor space and never more than 200sqm floorspace and 150sqm footprint.
The proposed revised Policy and Design Guidance may be viewed on the Authority’s website and submissions on the proposed policy document are to reach the Authority by 24th August 2020.