THE proposed development of a new golf resort in Polis Chrysochous does not fall within the limitations of the Natura 2000 project, according to Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis, and its proposed proximity to the shore poses no threat to established turtle breeding grounds in the area, according to the Green Party.
The minister has just responded to a questions raised by Green Party MP, George Perdikis, in July 2015, regarding the government’s position after the auditor-general advised both the interior and agriculture ministries that Cyprus comply with the European Commission and cancel permits for two golf courses, scheduled to be built at the Limni area near the Akamas national park.
Just over a year ago, the Commission sent an official letter telling the government to cancel the two building permits. Cyprus Limni Resorts and Golf Courses Plc project in Polis Chrysochous is being developed by the Shacolas Group which owns about 3.3 million sq. m. of freehold land, with a beachfront of 750m, and the proposed development will target the ‘premium segment of the market’ according to their website.
As well as a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and a Gary Player signature golf course, the project will include a five star hotel, a wellness centre, luxury residences, a historical museum and an information centre on the turtles, cycle paths, and a helipad.
The EU Commission opposed the project last April, saying that the Limni area overlooking Morphou Bay is part of the Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas.
Cyprus was cautioned to respect the Natura 2000 guidelines and had to commission a conservation study on the effects of the project to the surrounding area. (This was bypassed by former president Demetris Christofias in the last throes of his administration in order to speed up the process.)
The letter stated that Cyprus had two months to comply, or end up being sent to the European court.
Perdikis said: “On June 24, 2015 the auditor-general sent a letter to the interior and agriculture ministries regarding the management of beaches and golf course licensing in Polis Chrysochous. He suggested, in view of the concerns of the European Commission, to comply with the Commission’s recommendations and the acquis communautaire and to avoid the imposition of fines, which will come from the taxpayer.”
Perdikis added that part of the development and the creation of the golf courses extended into an area that has been included in the “Natura 2000” network because of its importance for nesting, spawning and feeding “Caretta caretta” turtles and the green “Chelonia mydas” turtles.
He urged the minister to inform the House of Representatives on the measures taken to achieve the compliance with the European Commission’s instructions and avoid facing hefty fines.
Kouyialis’s reply, which arrived this month, said that the development associated with the golf courses in the area does not fall within the defined area of the Natura 2000 network.
“According to the relevant planning permission, the residential development is spaced at a distance of about 200 metres from the shoreline and out of range of the network area. However, within the limits of the area are two holes of the golf course, which, it is believed, will not affect the habitat and turtles,” he said.
He added that regarding the Commission’s reasoned opinion, the government has informed the Commission that it would proceed to evaluate additional appropriate assessment studies in order to review the project’s effects on the Natura 2000 area.
He added that the Republic has assured that work will not start on the projects until the studies have been examined.
“Anyway the relevant building permits are pending,” he said.
In addition, he said, the ministry will promote measures and actions for the protection and management of the important site and the Natura 2000 network.
However, Andreas Evlavis, the head of the Paphos Greens, pointed out that no details had been given as too how big an area the two holes of the golf course would cover, and noted that although the party is not against progress, it is opposed to progress which has a negative impact.
“It’s not progress if there is a cost to the environment and the public. As well as the other points raised, golf courses use a lot of water, and a lot of chemicals on the grass due to the climate of Cyprus.”