Environmentalists vowed to stop the construction of residences at the sea caves in Peyia, despite reassurances by the Paphos town planning department that everything was done by the book.
Following two protests on Wednesday – one in Nicosia the other in Paphos – over the construction of six villas in the Peyia sea caves area, a birthing spot for the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), which is an endangered species, the Greens said they will continue their struggle to see the project halted and the area fully restored.
Another demonstration will take place in the sea caves area on Sunday morning, and will see a bus load of Green Party members and other environmentalists travel from Nicosia and Limassol to add their voices to the cause.
The Greens said they will continue their struggle to stop the construction of the six villas.
“Construction is not completed yet. When something proceeds illegally, it must be demolished,” second deputy chairperson of the Green Party, Efi Xanthou, told the Cyprus Mail.
She said that their goal is to see the buildings demolished and the area fully restored.
The beach protection zone has to be a minimum of three metres everywhere, Xanthou said, while in this case the houses are closer than three metres.
Xanthou disputes the claims of the Paphos town planning department that everything has been done by the book.
Construction began, she said, before the building permits were granted.
“We will insist on scrutiny of all procedures followed (concerning the construction of the houses),” Xanthou said.
The area in question, she said, is under protection.
“If the town planning zones have been changed, there could also be criminal responsibility,” Xanthou said.
MEP Demetris Papadakis, after consultations with Greens, sent a letter to the European Commission to bring to its attention what he called the illegal construction activity in the area.
Papadakis said in his letter that there are ‘serious arbitrary operations and illegal construction, serious geomorphological alteration, illegal coastal erosion and arbitrary coastal formation and unauthorized constructions’.
He also asked what measures are envisaged so that the implementation of the laws of the Republic of Cyprus comply with the EU Directives for the management and conservation of nature and wildlife in protected areas.
In an announcement on Wednesday, the district Paphos town planning department said the villas above the sea caves comprise six properties that fall into a development zone in Peyia requiring a 15 per cent building coefficient and a maximum of two floors.
“This land item is largely affected by the beach’s protection zone and neighbours Natura 2000 areas,” it said.
According to the announcement, the application procedure was adhered to and two planning permits were granted to the owning company. One concerned converting the field into a plot as is required by law, and the second the construction of six holiday homes.
Before the permits were granted, it said, all authorities involved, including the environment committee, game fund, water development board and the Peyia municipality, positively decided in favour of the project. The permits were granted on May 16, 2017.
It also said that a small part of the public green space fell within the sea due to erosion, and the applicants, at the request of Peyia municipality, filed an application to the town planning authority who granted the approval of modified plans, ‘changing the position of the public pedestrian street towards the shore and the green space so that it is outside the eroded part of the block without however differentiating anything in relation to the permitted development’.
Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou called for the revision of the town planning zones of the Akamas and Peyia. In a letter she sent last week to the interior minister, Panayiotou said that the area in question is ‘environmentally sensitive’ and measures must be put in place to ban construction development close to the beach to ensure the protection of endangered flora and fauna in the area.
She also called for on-site demarcation by the town planning department of the beach protection zone and for measures against illegal constructions that fall within this zone.
“The provisions of the EU Directives and our National Law on Nature Conservation should be religiously followed as well as the legislation on the prevention and restoration of environmental damage,” Panayiotou said.
The environment department was not immediately available for a comment.