A Nicosia court has annulled a government order for private land acquisitions for 16 owners, residents of Aglandjia and Larnaca Avenues, as part a revamp of the road, it was announced on Wednesday.
According to the lawyer for the landowners, Michalis Dilinos, who had filed the appeal against the acquisition, the decision means that the contractor can no longer enter private property – homes and businesses – for the continuation of the project. In addition, he said, all construction work on the private property is now illegal.
The 16 complainants were among a number of property owners who saw their land acquired by the government in November, as part of the redevelopment of the Aglandjia, Larnaca and Ammochostos avenues, Dilinos said. He added that in February, “the contractor invaded several houses and began works”.
The appeal was made by 31 individuals, but only the appeals of 16 were accepted as the rest did not adequately justify how the redevelopment would affect them, the court ruling said. Dilinos said that there were other area property owners who did not appeal against the acquisition.
The court justified its decision because it said the owners had not been offered “fair compensation”. In addition, it said, the acquisition concerns a permanent project, thus violating the complainants’ ownership rights.
The project aims to widen the three avenues from two to four lanes. Aside from private land acquisitions, crews felled century-old Cypress trees on Larnaca Avenue, to make way for the four-lane road. Residents have been struggling for several years to avert these plans but the project went ahead after funds were secured from the EU.
“Residents do not oppose a redevelopment, but do not agree with the existing plan,” Dilinos told the Cyprus Mail. Despite the fact that work is expected to stop, some of the houses and businesses have already been greatly affected.
“Trees have been cut down, house fences have been torn down, and holes have been dug in gardens and courtyards for laying pipes for rainwater and underground cabling,” Dilinos said.
One resident told the Cyprus Mail that with the existing plan, “cars will pass right outside people’s bedrooms.” “They wrecked everything; they cut people’s yards in half, wrecked fences…,” the resident said.
Dilinos said that owners could sue the government to request their properties be restored.
The court decision also highlighted the wrong way the government goes about land acquisition, Dilinos said.
When the government decides to proceed with the execution of a project of public interest, he said, it initially issues a notification followed by an expropriation decree and almost always issues an acquisition decree.
“So […] it immediately proceeds to the execution of the public utility project, without waiting for the completion of the compulsory acquisition and registration of the expropriated real estate in its name,” he said.
Despite the fact the affected property owners have the right to request the court to check whether their property has been expropriated legally, this procedure takes two years, he added. In the meantime, the project will have been completed, “and therefore the right of owners to take seek justice in order to protect their property rights, it becomes moot”.
Dilinos said in his opinion if Wednesday’s decision is not overturned by the Court of Appeals, the project can proceed only after the completion of an expropriation procedure. This would mean the landowners being properly compensated and handing over their land to the government so that the contractor can legally continue.