Cyprus Mail

Cabinet accused of bowing to big business over mall expansion plans

By Angelos Anastasiou

The cabinet has gone against its own advisory body by vetoing its rejection of plans to expand the Mall of Cyprus outside Nicosia and has sent the case back to the derogations council for secondary review, daily Politis reported on Monday.

According to the paper, the five-man derogations council – mandated with examining applications for land-zoning derogations and making recommendations to the cabinet – studied the company’s application and voted to reject it on February 26 by the thinnest majority possible, three to two.

The rejection was passed to Interior Minister Sokratis Hasikos, who then took it to the cabinet for a decision on April 21. By law, the cabinet may adopt the council’s recommendation, or send it back for re-evaluation. After re-evaluation, the council issues a new recommendation, but final say rests with the cabinet, which may approve or reject the derogation, or even approve a tweaked version.

According to one member of the derogations council, ITTL – the Mall’s holding company, which filed for the proposed expansion – has “unutilised building coefficient of some 4,000 squared metres”. The company filed for an expansion of approximately 7,000 squared metres.

“A 4,000 squared metre expansion can be justified by the existing building coefficient,” the derogations council member said on condition of anonymity.

“The two members who voted in favour of the expansion did so on the condition that it would stick to the allowed 4,000 squared metres – not the full expansion.”

Chairman of the derogations council Takis Pettemerides said he could not disclose the cabinet’s reasoning for referring the recommendation.

“In fact, I can neither confirm nor deny that such referral has taken place,” he told the Cyprus Mail.

“What I can tell you is that the issue will be finalised in one of the next two council sessions, either next week or three weeks from now.”

The proposed expansion has been heavily contested by the Nicosia municipality, which argues that it contravenes the Nicosia Master Plan, and that it would kill commerce at the capital’s traditional city centre.

The issue sparked reaction from the Green party, which appeared to link the cabinet’s decision with earlier government decisions that have ostensibly favoured businessman Nicos Shacolas, who also owns the Mall of Cyprus.

“After the scandalous handling of the issue of shop opening hours by the government, as well as the expected conviction of Cyprus [by the European Court of Justice] over the scandalous licensing of a golf course in Limni, Polis Chrysochous, we are told today that the cabinet did not accept the derogations council’s ‘no’ decision on the proposed expansion of the Mall,” the party said in a statement.

With a well-documented knack for the TV-friendly soundbite, the party sarcastically implied that the government is in Shacolas’ pocket.

“Repeatedly serving this particular businessman’s interests for years forces us to ask: is this a parliamentary democracy, or a Shacolean democracy?”

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