LIMASSOL municipality has correctly taken issue with the central government’s plans of broadening and making permanent the offering of incentives for the construction of high-rise buildings in the city. In a letter sent to the interior ministry, it has listed a host of reasonable objections to the proposed policy, which could veer out of control and irreversibly change the character of the town, affecting the quality of life of its citizens.
This is a vitally important issue, which merits exhaustive public debate before the policy is finalised, and it was a positive step for the interior ministry to seek the views of the municipality. After all, the municipality represents the people living in Limassol and should have the final say on whether the town’s seafront will be blocked off by high-rise buildings. In the era of more local democracy, such decisions should belong to local authority and not central government.
So far, the tallest building in Cyprus, the 37-storey Limassol One, is under construction on the seafront, a second, of as many levels is awaiting the issuing of the final permits while a 33-storey and a 15-storey development are also awaiting planning permission. These four will be on the seafront and the danger is that there will be many more such buildings, blocking off the view of the sea, if the government makes the incentives permanent.
The municipality, in its letter, points out that offering incentives to developers, “not only does not contribute to the improvement of the structured environment, sustainability and viable development of the town, but move in the opposite direction.” The policy “would not be to the benefit of the smooth development and planning regulation of the town,” it added, noting that rushed decisions, without serious study and town-planning regulations had already distorted the character of the urban area of Limassol. Many other legitimate points were raised by the municipality’s letter. For instance, high-rise buildings were justified in cities with millions of inhabitants and even then, the developments would not be close to the protected historical centre as is the case in Limassol.
The incentives, which set as the only criterion for issuing a permit for a high-rise the area of a plot, were introduced during the recession in order to give a boost to the ailing construction industry. This objective was achieved and developers need no such incentives now. On the contrary, what is needed now are strict town planning rules and regulations, because the coastal towns, particularly Limassol, are being threatened with the chaos of unchecked development. There is a very big number of applications for high-rise buildings on the Limassol seafront, awaiting approval.
The government must not only re-examine its incentives policy it should also give local authority the final approval for seafront high-rises.