By Bejay Browne
THE ENTIRE community council of Kissonerga in Paphos, including its mukhtar, have been served with a summons to appear before the court in November to answer charges relating to ‘irregularities’ at the village’s first organised beach.
The papers, issued on Wednesday, relate to Potima bay in Kissonerga which opened as an organised beach in April 2014, after two local businessmen won the tender from the local community council.
Cash-strapped Kissonerga, which has loans of about 3.8 million euros, saw the income from the beach as an opportunity to help to stave off bankruptcy.
Community leader George Stylianou told the Sunday Mail that as far as the council is concerned, everything has been carried out in accordance with the law.
“I am hoping that the matter can be cleared up before it ends up with us going to court,” he told the Sunday Mail. “We have permission for the beach, toilet, showers and the canteen, but there was no permission granted for the bar area, which they have there. The operators should’ve asked for these extra licences – for the bar, tables and chairs – from the authorities, and I believe this is where the problem has arisen.”
But this was denied by Nikos Konnikos, one of the two businessmen operating the facilities, who said that the entrepreneurs have been caught up in a dispute between the government and the Kissonerga council, and are being used as scapegoats.
“I think that the council has rented out the space (where the palm trees and seating area is) without receiving the permission to do so from the authorities,” he said, adding that the government had been slow to issue the correct permits to allow the community council to rent the space above the beach.
Konnikos pointed out that last year, the pair won the right to rent the area for three years. According to the law, the community council have to apply to the district office, this then goes to the ministry of the interior which gives permission to rent out a space for a certain amount of years.
“After the application to the government has been given the go ahead, they are able to rent it out. I believe that Kissonerga rented it out without the relevant papers. We didn’t know anything about this until the other day, and as far as we’re concerned we have done everything legally,” he said.
Konikkos, who is also head of Peyia municipality beaches committee, and Andreas Antoniou, teamed up for the project and pay around 41,000 euros per year in rent.
“We have almost completed two seasons and it’s getting busier and more popular there all of the time. We spent around 60,000 euros to beautify the area and add grass, more palm trees and umbrellas and beds.”
Konikkos has yet to be served his court summons, but said he is expecting it. Antoniou has already received his.
Stylianou insists that the council has all of the relevant permission from the government and said he hopes to settle the issue with the Paphos district office in the coming days. He stressed that the beach is legal and the problems only relate to the plot of the cafe.
“We are all very shocked. It was a bolt out of the blue. The decree declaring the beach suitable for bathers is signed by the minister of communications and works.”
He added that all of the processes connected with the area, such as electricity supply to the beach, area were granted and signed by the district administration. In addition, a life guard was employed at the beach by the district administration.
“Any construction made here is in accordance with the approved plan of beach use and created with prefabricated structures (without any building) so it may be removed easily and quickly,” he said.
“The income from the beach is a very important for Kissonerga and has saved us from bankruptcy. The previous council didn’t have a clue how to run the community and didn’t know what they were doing.”
The mukhtar added that Kissonerga owes so much money that it could barely pay the interest on its huge loans. The debts were around 3.8 million euros because the previous council spent so much.
“In 2011, they made a loss of 471,000 euros, as they were going ahead with projects and had no income. The first year we took over we had a loss of 45,000, and in the second year we made 150,000. This just allows us to pay the interest on our loans.”
Stylianou said that financially Kissonerga faces even bigger problems than the Greek government. He said that the income from Potima Bay and another small beach in the area means an income of 55,000 euros and, along with tax reforms were vital for keeping Kissonerga afloat.
“We are trying to rescue the community from a terrible financial quagmire left by the previous council and this inappropriate move against us was shocking and unwarranted,” he said.
“We need to find an acceptable legal solution, along with the authorities, for removing illegalities which may be in place.”
By Bejay Browne