By Linda Leblanc
Some remarkable discussions have been happening in Peyia so far this year and, for a change, it’s rather positive, at least for some of us.
Peyia Council has been deliberating the proposed mammoth development on the highest hill above Peyia, an area called Ayia Vouni (Sacred Mountain). Although Peyia is not the planning authority, it will be responsible for issuing a building permit if planning permission is granted by Nicosia.
A slick presentation by former president of the Republic George Vassiliou’s development company raised many serious reservations from the council. A subsequent Peyia Council meeting decided, by vast majority, to write its objections to the town planning department and asked that no planning or other permits be approved until all required studies are completed. Some of Peyia’s major concerns relate to possible flooding and landslides, height of buildings, drinking and irrigation water supply and public roads.
Peyia Council also discovered, much to its astonishment, that part of the development incorporates government-owned land, “halitiki”. We are awaiting clarification on when this transfer of property from public to private occurred and why Peyia was not asked for its opinion, as is the usual procedure. This big gift to a favoured developer also included building cover increase from six per cent to 55 per cent. The location is in a protected “Z1”area, immediately adjacent to the protected Pikni Forest and encompasses part of Natura 2000. The environmental impact on the forest and surrounding areas will be immense.
It is also outside the designated building zone which means that this is outside the limits of the town water supply. I’m not going to elaborate further on that one in this article!
The land has a 32 per cent slope and plans include multiple four-floor buildings with 145 apartments, plus 125 villas. The project is planned over two phases, with no timeframe for Phase Two. Guess any buyers will have a long wait for those title deeds!
One might be forgiven for cynically thinking that powerful local developers might be behind the Peyia opposition but there are so many concerns about this project that I think there is far more going on than just the usual vested interests.
In late 2009, on the neighbouring hillside, a cowboy with a bulldozer decided to clear the slope and it promptly collapsed, leaving a landslide scar still visible six years later.
You would be correct to think that this project sounds a lot like the disastrous building boom that took place in Peyia over the past 10 years, which has left many badly-built apartment blocks empty and abandoned.
There’s one big difference though: shockingly, this new project is being paraded as “sustainable development” in pseudo environmental disguise. There are plans for a small “research centre” on environment and health and an EU-funded zero-energy house model. It seems this virgin territory will be sacrificed for “sustainable development” with a big dollop of phoney eco buzz and anticipated profits for the developer. If it proceeds, I hope the research centre will document how and why they destroyed an unscathed area of Peyia.
In addition, due to the severe slope, there can be only one public road with access from the Peyia to Kathikas bypass road, as the public works department will not permit public streets with a slope above 10 per cent. With only one public road for entry and exit, and no access from below, this appears set to become a private estate. The one-way access presents a safety challenge in the event of fire next to the forest, the likelihood of which is greatly increased by the massive development itself.
At least there was a recent on-site visit to Peyia by two planning officers from Nicosia who received a first-hand briefing on potential hazards and difficulties.
No one aside from me has mentioned EU Directive 35/2003 (Aarhus Convention) that provides for the right of the public to participate in decision-making on projects that affect the environment. Let’s hope my request for public consultation is approved and that it takes place in Peyia so that residents can be fully informed and will be able to voice their opinions.
Sadly, the government’s unseemly rush to encourage investment results in backroom deals in Nicosia which are not transparent. Stay tuned, as there are many more mega-projects planned (marinas, golf courses, new cities, Akamas development). I suggest readers invest in a bigger shovel to clear a path through the unsustainable mountain of BS.
If you are not worried yet, you obviously don’t know what’s going on.
Linda Leblanc, Peyia Councillor, Coalition of Independents and Green Party