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Varosha: urgent need for a master plan  

A deserted corner of the fenced off area of Famagusta-Varosha

While Turkey is playing around with Varosha, incurring the discomfort of Mustafa Akinci, the G/C side takes it out on gatherings outside the presidential palace.

There must be a way forward. Politicians and many others have long been talking about the ‘reconstruction’ of Varosha which is a way forward. How and when? The investigation conducted about 10 years ago by the bi-communal team of engineers from the technical chambers of both sides showed that most if not all the buildings and the infrastructure services are completely derelict, posing the need for a planning concept to guide reconstruction opportunities and choices. Reconstruction is evidently the thing to do, how to do it, who with and when requires first a master plan.

The master plan is needed for two very important reasons: to offer a strategic context and direction to the ‘hard actions’ of building operations, and second, to serve as a social engagement tool to bring together G/C and T/C planners to cooperate, share visions and assert their own perspectives on Varosha.

At present Varosha is inaccessible, a master plan will require bi-communal cooperation; how else will G/Cs do a Master Plan? Redevelopment is not about buildings as such but about the reorganisation of all infrastructure lines, the distribution, location and the use of buildings, the extent of redevelopment, the definition of land use zones and building densities and the protection of significant buildings and spaces of environmental, historical or social value.

The master plan as the ‘soft action’ of reconstruction / redevelopment must be prepared quickly to become an active communications and decision-making tool before ‘hard actions’ for demolition, reconstruction or conservation are attempted. The master plan should be guided and include the following planning principles:

  1. Deciding the extent of redevelopment: Will anticipate the likely population size and make provision for the linkage of Varosha with the post-1974 new development sprawl and the heritage-rich Walled City.
  2. Defining development opportunities, constraints and choices Will offer clear choices for redevelopment, conservation and protection areas according to their future role in the revitalization of the city and guidelines for the future use of the coastal front as a natural and an economic resource.
  3. Understanding the economy of the city Will address attention to the economy of the city and the importance of coastal and heritage tourism, the port, the business and commercial zones and the quality of housing areas. Will show how the business investment model for redevelopment will be brought together with the social and environmental vision.
  4. The social parameter will incorporate and reflect the expectations and memories of the people of Varosha who will return after so many years. How do they remember the city and what they wish to preserve? The master plan has to be understood as an overall concept plan, at this stage, clean of technical details and architectural building regulations, to highlight the available choices and costs to support dialogue with all concerned. Such a ‘soft action’ initiative apart from its urban planning value will demonstrate readiness for cooperation for the ‘hard actions’ of actual reconstruction as a home-grown vision.

Glafkos Constantinides, Economist and Urban Planner

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