Cyprus Mail

Shaky future for ghost estate

Ghost Estate, the Tala housing project that was never finished. The completed villa on the right is noticeably veering to the left

By Bejay Browne

THE developers of a stricken, now deserted Tala project which appears to be slowly sliding down the hillside say they would never have gone ahead with construction if they had been aware that the land was ‘problematic’ to build on.

The development consists of 14 units: four apartments, two villas and eight townhouses. The latter are at a skeleton stage and face directly onto a busy road which leads to the Kamares village development in Paphos.

Following heavy rains two years ago, a large crack appeared in the road below the development, which is a busy hub for traffic to and from Kamares village. Police had to temporarily close the road, diverting traffic from the area.

Tremetoushiotis Developers Ltd – operating under the umbrella of Top Cyprus Properties – was responsible for the construction of the development and is now being sued by the Paphos district office, according to Evagoros Andreou, head of the planning permits department.

“The district office is proceeding with taking legal action against the developers,” Andreou said. “This is complicated and I can’t say any more about that.”

Andreou confirmed though, that all of the necessary permits and licences were issued for the project prior to construction.

Christos Tremetoushiotis told the Cyprus Mail that the developers were unaware that the plot of land wasn’t ‘healthy’ – although he says that locals had been aware of the problems for many years.

“We bought the land as residential plots with up to 60 per cent building allowed on each. We obtained all of the necessary permits and licences and started construction of the project in 2003/2004,” he said. “Usually, if there are some particular specifications or points to be aware of, these are listed on the last two pages of the building permit. There was nothing on ours, they were clear.”

Tremetoushiotis stated that such points may include the presence of underground water for example. The developers said they now believe this is the case with the Tala site, but they did not know prior to construction, and the permit mentioned nothing.

“When the authorities tell you that everything is OK – they have access to all of the geological maps and other information – you believe them and go ahead,” he said.

The developer admitted that Tremetoushiotis didn’t undertake an independent survey prior to construction but added that this was common practice.

“No developer would spend an extra 10-15 thousand Cyprus pounds [the currency at the time] for no reason to undertake a survey when you have already been issued with all of the permits,” he said.

Construction got underway and half of the entire project was completed – including one block of four apartments and one detached villa – and those properties were delivered to the clients.

Heavy winter rains soon revealed a problem. The construction of the upper road – an access dead-end road to the project – had been carried out ‘incorrectly’ by the authorities, the developer said. He said insufficient measures were taken by them to ensure that the huge amount of rain water which sometimes cascades down the mountain side would be taken away safely instead of being able to get into the site.

“Usually properties built on hills or inclines have a half a metre trench built which takes the water somewhere safe. We had done our own rainwater drainage; it was carefully studied and calculated for our properties, but it cannot cope with torrents from the hillside,” Tremetoushiotis said.

He noted that when the heavy rain started a deep crack appeared at the end of the road, and all the rain water poured in. “We stopped construction to see what we could do about it.”

The developer stressed that if they had known that the hillside was ‘dangerous’ they wouldn’t have purchased the land.

“It costs a lot of money to put in the infrastructure needed to build here. We have used a solid foundation and not piling as we believed the land was safe.”

According to Tremetoushiotis, the project cost over two million Cyprus pounds. All residents and owners were forced to leave after authorities deemed them unfit for habitation.

”It would be very costly to put right now,” he said, but was unwilling to comment on whether the development would have to be demolished.

But it seems that all is not lost for home owners at the development, as Tremetoushiotis says they will be offered another Paphos property of equal value.

“We have approached four of the five owners to offer them an informal proposal, which we will do legally in the near future. We will cancel the contract of sale and swap these properties with one of our other completed properties in Paphos of the same value as the client paid. These properties have title deeds,” he said.

He conceded that this was not an ideal solution as the properties won’t be in Tala but in other areas of Paphos.
“But at least they will have a property and be compensated this way. We are not in a position to give cash back,” he said.

Tremetoushiotis said it is important for the company to continue to have a good relationship with their clients and the authorities.

“We are trying to be fair to our customers and do what’s best for the company. Our reputation is important to us and we do not want this situation in Tala to damage that,” he said.

President of the Paphos branch of the Cyprus Civil Engineers and Architects association, Chrysostomos Italos carried out a study of the area and is due to visit the site again in the coming days. He said that the main reasons for movement at the site were due to excess surface water and poor quality soil.

“Although there is considerable subsidence at the site – some properties are visibly leaning to one side – at present the area is safe,” he said.

But the Paphos district office isn’t taking any chances and workers are currently undertaking works to ensure the situation doesn’t worsen. Andreou said: “We are taking some measures ourselves to ensure the site is stabilised.”

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