By Antonis Loizou FRICS
THE Famagusta region, especially the beach areas seem to have been left behind in terms of planning zones and densities adopted. The region that attracts the most tourists does not have demanding municipalities to promote its interests, whereas the technocrats in government must dismiss them as “villagers who don’t know anything”. The prevailing building density adopted for housing near the beach is now 20 per cent (it used to be 40 per cent) and for hotels from the original 70 per cent it is now 40 per cent. Yet for other beach regions, building density can reach more than 400 per cent; Limassol especially has made all the difference with its new generation of high tower blocks.
It is not by chance that Limassol has progressed – Limassolians are acting as one with the municipality and local chambers and other organisations for the benefit of the town. It is a fact that as the building density increases, so development is encouraged. The recent incentives regarding increased building density for hotels in the Famagusta region of 20 per cent has caused added beach hotel projects to come onto the market (approximately 2,000 beds), older buildings are being renovated, and numerous tourist project extensions are underway.
In addition to the low densities of the region approximately 50 per cent of the land available in the Famagusta region has no access, frustrating demand and new projects. Yet all of a sudden, a 30-floor tower block has been allowed for the Ayia Napa marina and despite that being a correct move, what about the others?
The region is set to show an increasing demand for the years to come, because it has the best beaches, Nicosia tourists and lower property prices than those of Limassol. In the Famagusta region villas to let is top the Cyprus market with average occupancy rate reaching around 60 per cent with returns of around 5 per cent pa.
It is time for Famagusta municipalities to undertake some sort of a ‘velvet revolution’ and come up with demands and be treated like the other beach areas/towns. New local councils seem to be quite imaginative and progressive but, the red tape of governmental is against this. The recent proposal by Ayia Napa municipality regarding its beach development (a long walkway near the beach, the construction of piers etc) was turned down to an extent because of migrating birds and disturbance of the seabed. But what about the effect of the proposed casino on the environment in Limassol?
It is inevitable that any development will upset the environment, but what is the alternative? Not build airports, marinas, houses, motorways etc?
We encourage some sort of ‘revolution’ by the area’s municipalities to press the government to have development in Famagusta in line with other areas. A few years ago Paralimni municipality employed an internationally known town planner who suggested (15 years ago) the region should have high rise buildings/hotels with large open spaces around. The then director of town planning told them to drop the project because “Cyprus should not become like Miami”. What is wrong with Miami? And look at Limassol now, showing what a huge mistake was made in Famagusta.
We need a law change for the prevailing procedure about the relative importance of development and the environment since the people who manage the Department of Environment do not seem to be going in the right direction.