By Bejay Browne
A CONTROVERSIAL NEW BEACH bar situated in an old building overlooking a turtle laying beach in Paphos will have to cease operation as the structure almost certainly doesn’t have planning permission, said local officials.
A spokesman for the Paphos district office said he has visited the beach bar just above Asprokremmos beach and near the Anassa hotel, following complaints that the bar was endangering the nesting sites of endangered turtles.
“The building is an old structure built about 30 years or so ago and we’re 99 per cent sure it doesn’t have a building permit,” said the official who did not want to be named.
The bar, which has stood empty for many years, re-opened under new ownership this season.
The official said that the district office’s standard procedure would now be followed and the owner and manager of the venture would be sent a letter requesting that they stop operating a beach bar out of the premises. If they fail to do so, legal action will be taken.
“As this is on private land, we can’t really do anything else. If it was on government land we would have the authority to demolish the building.”
However, he said that the facility does have a licence to operate as an organised beach, providing sun beds and umbrellas and is doing so legally.
“We found 80 sun beds and 40 umbrellas on the beach as allowed; the permit for this was issued by the local community council.”
The Paphos official noted that usual procedure sees various state departments decide which areas in Cyprus will be designated as suitable as organised beaches. These are then assigned and published in government papers. This was the case with Asprokremmos beach, he said.
Previously, the community leader of Neo Chorio, Andreas Christodoulou confirmed that the facility has a licence to operate as an organised beach, providing sunbeds and umbrellas, but he also insisted it had a licence to operate as a café as well, selling soft drinks and snacks, but no alcohol.
But Green party MP, George Perdikis, has condemned the entire operation, arguing that their investigations failed to turn up such a licence and has written an official letter to the minister of the environment and the House of Representatives requesting the beach bar be shut down. He stressed that he is concerned that the light and noise emitted from the bar is having a disastrous effect on the turtles and their eggs.
The district office official said that during his visit he didn’t observe any cages which are used to cover turtle’s nests and saw no evidence of turtles at the beach at all.
“Perhaps they are very hard to see,” he said.
The Green party countered that 25 nests have been observed in the area so far, with more turtles choosing to lay their eggs further round the coast at Lara bay, as they are being put off by the noise and activity at Asprokremmos beach.
The district office local official said his office had received a number of complaints about high noise levels, but added this had not been apparent when he visited the area.
Andreas Constantinou, district secretary of the Paphos Greens, said it was time that Cyprus took issues of conservation seriously and placed greater value on the environment instead of profit and greed.
“I have spoken to the environmental committee in Europe about this situation and they told me that Cyprus is obliged to officially protect the bio-diversity in Cyprus. Clearly we aren’t doing that.”
He said that according to the EU, during the periods of turtle hatching, nothing must be allowed to stay on the beach overnight.
“This means everything must be taken away each and every night, including sun beds and umbrellas.”
Constantinou added that authorities which he accused of trying to avoid addressing serious concerns raised over the beach bar would now have to do so as an official complaint has been lodged by the Greens.
The Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) and their breeding grounds have been protected by law since 1971.
They are both endangered species. Green turtles now nest on the west coast beaches of Lara and Toxeftra and on a few beaches on the north coast. Some Loggerheads also nest in these areas, but their main nesting beaches are in the Polis and Limni area in Chrysochou bay. The turtle breeding season in Cyprus gets underway in late May and finishes at the end of August
Most of the Akamas Peninsula, where Asprokremmos beach is located, is in the Natura 2000 network, an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. If beaches not within the Natura network are found to have turtle nests they are also protected.