THE authorities are struggling to find a balance between the long-standing demands of local businesses to improve the access road and other facilities on Limassol’s popular Lady’s Mile beach and the need to protect the delicate surrounding wetlands.
Funding is also an issue.
Located next to the new port, the more than six-kilometre-long beach falls under the jurisdiction of the British bases which has designated it as a special area of conservation.
The beach is adjacent to the Akrotiri wetlands which includes the Akrotiri Salt Lake.
The existing dirt road is difficult for cars to drive over and restaurant and bar owners at Lady’s Mile say this harms their business along with a lack of other amenities such as electricity, public bathrooms and lifeguards.
According to the representative of the business owners, Fylios Demetriades, the six restaurants employ 300 people during the summer months and they want to offer improved access and services.
But just this week the conservation foundation Terra Cypria indicated what is at stake when they voiced their concern over demands that the road should be tarmacked.
“The Akrotiri wetlands system is the most important wetland in the island, but also one of the most important wetlands in the eastern Mediterranean. Akrotiri recorded 27 natural habitats and every year it is visited by millions of birds during migratory periods, for food, breeding and wintering,” it said in a statement.
Requests by business owners that street lights be installed would be destructive to species such as migratory birds and sea turtles, added Green’s MP Charalambos Theopemptou.
“Improvements are understandable but not at the cost of the environment,” he said.
But Demetriades points out that another area around the Akrotiri salt late has tens of kilometres of asphalt, “except the Lady’s Mile area which is used by hundreds of thousands of locals and foreigners”.
But Demetriades argues that for the past 18 years he has been running two restaurants at Lady’s Mile he has been on the receiving end of empty promises that things would improve. He was one of the business owners and other locals who took part in a protest on April 5 to highlight their demands.
“Some ten years ago, parliament discussed it and every couple of years it’s brought up again. A few years ago, the town planning department came here to undertake a study on what could be done. That’s it. Nothing came after that,” he said.
The study assessed the feasibility of making the road more accessible without harming the environment.
According to the town planning department, a study was carried out 15 years ago by the road works department but was rejected when it got to the environmental department level.
“In 2014, it came to us so we could look at using different materials and different methods,” a spokesperson from the town planning department told the Sunday Mail.
The most likely solution proposed by the department is the use of geowebs that offer more stability to vehicles and are easier to clean.
“This is still open for discussion,” the department specified.
The study also provides easier access to parking as vehicles usually park at the restaurants or on the side of the road. Road bumps would prevent speeding.
The British bases have said they are open to evaluating any applications.
“But we have to balance the environment and any application to develop,” spokesman Sean Tully told the Sunday Mail.
“We have an obligation to protect the environment. It is a beautiful beach and the reason it is so beautiful is because it is protected.”
While on a technical level, the master plan has been concluded, discussions are still ongoing, the town planning department said and has not yet been formally submitted
Funding is also a sticking point as normally one third of the expenses are covered by the local authority and the remaining amount by the government but this is complicated by the fact that Lady’s Mile is in the bases area. For the same reason, EU funds cannot be applied for.
“We are working and responding to calls from business owners,” Tully said and a decision would be made “very soon” regarding power supply.
Currently, restaurants use generators.
Akrotiri and Tserkezoi village residents also want a proper road leading to Limassol, further delaying the discussions.
At present, the road is cleared as part of an annual €40,000 payment the bases make to the local district office to maintain the roads in the bases area.
In a letter sent to the government, bases and local authorities prior to the April 5 protest, business owners also cited safety concerns saying lifeguards were only present in the area “for two months per year whereas in other beaches it’s eight months”.
“We pay, like any other Cypriot European citizen and businessman our income tax, defence, VAT, social insurance. We want nothing more and nothing less than the rights of every Cypriot European businessman,” said Demetriades.
“I employ lifeguards out of my own pocket,” he said. “The bathrooms I have for my restaurant I have open for the public even if they don’t order anything. I clean the beach 90 metres to the left and right of my restaurant but what about the rest of the beach?”
Demetriades said the environmental concerns did not mean improvements could not take place.
“They should not portray the environment as an obstacle. Humans can co-exist with nature.”