Cyprus Mail

‘Renting out nature’

The town planning department has dragged the Ayios Tychonas community council in Limassol to court over a beach bar that is operating without proper licencing.

The bar in question is La Isla, which has been operating on the coast for almost two years.

It rents out premises from the community council as part of a project which was set in motion 10 years ago to boost facilities across a 5km stretch for people swimming by the sea, walking on the coast and to further develop the area.

The plan, according to councilor George Stylianou meant six kiosks or ‘snack bars’ were called for tender within the Ayios Tychonas boundaries.

He has conceded however that it was an open secret all of them had extended the snack bars to make them fully fledged restaurants.

The problem with La Isla in particular however is that when it won the tender, it had in its hands what was formerly, Drops, a club in Limassol and was entirely demolished.

Thus, as it wanted to renew it, its plans were handed to the community council and in turn the town planning department in 2013.

According to La Isla administrating company GNM Midnight, they’ve been waiting for approval for months now and nothing has happened.

Rather than wait for the town planning department however, they proceeded to go on with the works and set up shop – which is why the court case is dragging on.

“Half of Cyprus works and operates without a building permit,” a spokeswoman for the company told the Cyprus Mail. It also denies having made any extensions.

According to a 2014 Ombudswoman report, the department had even sent letters calling on them to stop construction work but was duly ignored.

It did however say that it was possible the extensions had taken place when Drops was operating the premises or even before that.

As it stands La Isla cannot even get power from the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) as they have not presented any permit and instead uses a generator.

Water however is available to them as part of the project plan provided for showers and bathroom facilities.

Roxane Coudounari, on the Green Party ticket as a Limassol candidate, slammed the local authority saying “Ayios Tychonas just wants extra income for themselves. All the local taxes aren’t enough. They turn themselves into developers so as to use profit from public land.”

She went on to say this was “a strange re-distribution of benefits” as swimmers don’t have enough space but private businesses were being served.

GNM Midnight spokeswoman however said during a public hearing by the Council on Derogations which is examining whether they could give La Isla the permit, the majority of the services – including the fire department and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation were positive.

“They just made a few comments on the parking and the stairs but it’s nothing we can’t fix. We’re taking it all on board.”

Coudounari said “services are bending over backwards to please them” and the message it sends out is “if you just turn a blind eye, why bother with the law? It’s a complete disregard.”

“What would normally be a sandy beach is now a parking lot…They are renting out nature.”

Expressing her concern on the environmental impact, she said she was worried eucalyptus trees to the east of La Isla would be impacted with more extensions by the company.

Nevertheless, the administrator defended itself saying it has a green roof and operates as environmentally friendly as possible.

Coudounari said laws need to be passed that called for environmental vigilance and processes should be put in place that allowed for more public participation of citizens in decisions that affected them to express their opinions.

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