To abide by law when authorising on of building – Planning Commissioner
sional (architect) appointed by the Authority’.”
The report notes that the lack of an inspection by an architect appointed by the Planning Authority is quite evident both at the time that the original request to the authority was made and even during the processing of this application, and also when this fact was flagged by this Office. “Therefore, the authorisation issued by the PA in this regard should be rendered null and void.”
As for whether a danger, in terms of the law, existed on site, the report states that the PA submitted that “the structural report as well as the assessment carried out by the Planning Authority were not based on financial feasibility.” The structural report was quoted as saying: ‘the most critical structural vulnerability which was identified during the appraisal relates to problems in the foundation to the building…’ and that ‘… such footings consist of pad foundations.’ “As stated in the structural report ‘a new-build would address the problem related to the foundations and that the building in its current condition is not fit for purpose. Therefore demolition and redevelopment of the building may be considered to be the most viable option’. First and foremost, the PA’s assertion of an assessment carried out by itself is unevident as it failed to appoint an architect as obliged by law.”
The Commissioner noted that there were other available options for the building. “Options 1 and 2 from the structural appraisal report clearly define how shoring could have been done if the third option of demolition were not to be implemented. Demolition option 3, being the viability option, should have been left as the last option to be considered by the PA before issuing this authorisation. Therefore, even in this regard, this authorisation was found to be irregular.”
As for the allegation that the applicant failed to declare that the site was scheduled, the commissioner said that the PA indicated that perusal of the PA Geoserver shows that the building in itself is not scheduled. “However, the same Geoserver shows that the site is within a scheduled area of High Landscape Value, that is, the Harbour Fortifications. The report notes that although the applicant still submitted false information in the application form when he declared that the site (and not the building) is not scheduled when in fact it is, the PA’s assertions that the omission of this declaration from the original request does not have any bearing on the issue of this authorisation since the legislation mentions a ‘scheduled building’ rather than a ‘scheduled site’ are being accepted.” Following this investigation, a minor amendment to the relative application form for the removal of dangerous structures was suggested requiring applicants to state whether the building, rather than the site, is scheduled.
The commissioner also highlighted the failure to request the applicant to submit method statements for shoring.
The Commissioner concluded that the complaint lodged against the Planning Authority on alleged failure to abide by law in authorising the demolition of the building was sustained, and a number of recommendations were made. One such recommendation, was that the authorisation issued by the Planning Authority for the demolition of part of the building should be rendered null and void since the Planning Authority did not appoint an architect to inspect the site. Another recommendation was that the appointment of an architect by the PA to inspect a site should be done at the very early stages of the processing of similar applications for the removal of dangerous structures..
The report reads that the Planning Authority implemented some of the recommendations, in that it started appointing an independent architect when processing similar applications and by amending the relative application form to include a declaration whether the building, rather than the site, is scheduled or not. “However, in its reply the PA stated that although it was in agreement that in this case no site inspection was carried out by an architect appointed by the Authority, at the same time, the Authority was not agreeing with the recommendation that the authorisation issued by the Authority for the demolition of part of the building should be rendered null and void.”
“To this effect the report with recommendations was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister. However, as the complainant filed a case in court on the subject matter of this investigation, the Prime Minister was informed that this case had been suspended from further investigation as established by the Ombudsman Act.”