By Andria Kades
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides is asking the agriculture and interior ministries to take action over golf course building permits issued for the Limni resort near Polis in order to avoid being fined by the European Commission.
In a letter he sent to the two authorities last week, daily Politis reported that the matter was one of the most important topics in his annual 2013-2014 report as the resort is scheduled to be built next to the Polis-Yialis turtle beach, an EU designated protected area part of Natura 2000.
Looking at the background of the application since 2005, the report concludes that authorities were pressured to bend the rules to allow businessman’s Nicolas Shacolas planned €1.5 billion golf course, hotel and luxury villa development to move forward despite it violating the rules of protection for Natura 2000.
But the PR manager for Cyprus Limni Resorts & Golf Courses denied that the project flouts European Commission directives.
“There is no development and infrastructure that violates the Natura 2000 area. It is very far back from it and at a much greater distance that any other development in the area,” PR manager Pavlos Pavlou told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.
On April 29, the Commission issued a press release saying it had sent Cyprus a letter of formal notice on 11 July 2014, but as Cyprus has authorised the project without having carried out a proper assessment of its impact on the Natura 2000, the Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. If Cyprus fails to act within two months, the Commission may take the matter to the EU Court of Justice.
The letter had, according to Politis, said that there could be no developments within 475 metres from the shore but this was not followed and there had been two amendments made with the protective zone reduced by 20 metres
The company responded to the publication saying that the Natura zone had never been amended and said wrong information had been given to EU officials.
They specified that development is 200 metres away from the shore while other property from Polis Chrysochous to Yialia were 50 to 80 metres away.
The Polis-Yialia area is one of the most important beach in Cyprus for the Caretta caretta turtles, which lay their eggs there.
Environmentalists opposed to the project say turtles are at risk from human interaction with people “swimming, putting up umbrellas, littering, and playing in the sand where the turtles nest,” but that hatchlings face serious threat from artificial lighting.
Neither ministry was available for comment.