PA launches public consultation on land-use for childcare
The Planning Authority yesterday published for public consultation an updated land-use planning policy guidance to ensure that the growing demand for childcare facilities is well catered for with utmost importance given to the welfare of the children.
The principal land use planning considerations in this guidance document fall into three thematic areas: location, suitability and scale of the premises and the potential impact on neighbours.
The guidelines propose that child day care facilities are located within residential areas or employment hubs to underscore the importance that child care facilities are a community service but also make it easier for working parents to have access to these facilities close to their place of work. Employment hubs as designated in the Local Plans include Town Centres, Industrial Zones, Micro-enterprise Parks, Tourism Zones and Entertainment Zones.
The policy makes a provision that should an industrial area be considered as an appropriate site, enough measures need to be taken to ensure a high quality environment for the young children. The guidelines do not exclude that existing buildings in the countryside may also be suitable for the provision of childcare as long as the building is not too distant from the urban area and is already serviced by the road network.
The guidelines make a provision that childcare facilities will not be favourably considered on arterial, distributor or other heavy traffic roads due to the presence of undesirable levels of chemical pollution and noise, as well as a higher risk of traffic accidents.
From a land-use perspective, the proposed policy considers terraced houses, maisonettes and detached properties in appropriate locations as suitable for the use of child day care facilities, provided that they satisfy the requirements of this policy. More so, detached properties, may have the added advantage in that they are more likely to be able to provide outside play areas and accommodate on-site parking.
To protect the amenity of the surrounding area and the impact that such facilities may have on neighbours, premises which share their access with a block of flats will not be considered ap- propriate.
Additionally, all proposed child day care facilities will need to ensure that they are fully accessible for all, including persons with a disability and the mobility impaired. Where the childcare facility is to be located within a historic building or within an Urban Conservation Area (UCA), the proposed development needs to respect the heritage value of the building.
For purposes of ensuring adequate parking provisions and reduce the impact of the child care facility on the adjacent neighbourhood, the guidelines categorise into four tiers the proportion of the scale/impact. The policy determines that there is no impact for home-based child care facilities (up to 6 children), a low impact for facilities up to 100 square metres, a medium impact for facilities between 100-180 square metres and a significant impact for facilities with over 180 square metres.
The proposed policy also notes that whether or not premises are considered suitable for childcare facilities will primarily be assessed by the Ministry for Education. The Ministry will also determine the maximum number of children together with corresponding number of carers a childcare facility can have.
The draft policy document may be viewed on www.pa.org.mt/publicconsultation. Individuals and organisations are invited to send their representation pertaining to the proposed policy in writing through email address: firstname.lastname@example.org by not later than 6 December 2016.