By Bejay Browne
Members of Tala council are refusing to sign paperwork for phase two of planned upgrades to the centre of the village until the newly-renovated and recently pedestrianised square is opened to through traffic.
In 2017, phase one of the works to overhaul the popular village centre and create a hub for village life were completed ahead of schedule.
The square was pedestrianised and modernised, and a central, a colourful and lit water fountain, which turns shades of blue, purple, pink and yellow added to the new look and is a huge hit with village children.
According to the local community leader and the Paphos District Office, (PDO), six members of the nine-member community council are now reneging on a previously unanimous decision to go ahead with both phase one and two of the project, and instead are insisting that a road is created through the centre of the square.
Community leader, Areti Pieridou, told the Sunday Mail that she was hoping the impasse could be resolved imminently and that the work, which has already been delayed, will be able to go ahead.
“I am hoping that some of the community council will change their minds. I don’t want to have to take other measures as we should be able to talk together and need to be able to operate as a council. We also need to cooperate as this was unanimously voted for before,” she said.
Since the decision was made and the board voted unanimously for the design and to obtain funding from the PDO, only two new council members have been voted in.
A spokesman for the PDO, said that the Paphos District officer Mary Lambrou, and the office’s engineer visited the community board, and along with the architect of the project tried to explain the philosophy of the square.
“We stressed that it’s pedestrianised and safe and for the common use. People can visit the tavernas and know their children are playing there. But they are insisting that they want a road,” he said.
Lambrou then advised that the architect could go and apply for a different planning permit, for a different use, but the district office does not believe that it will be approved.
“We are hoping though, that they will sign and the second phase can go ahead. The tender has already been extended by one month.”
Phase 2 will cost around €600,000 and phase one, including VAT, was almost €700,000, he said.
The project was funded by the community council through the district office and the funds are to be returned gradually, he added.
The community leader, her deputy and community board member, Cathi Delaney, are currently the only three local council members still in favour of going ahead with phase 2.
“In the last six weeks, deadlines have been and gone several times and it would be a huge waste of money if we have to put in a road. The square is beautiful and it seems that the council is now working against the interests of the village and it is not a good situation to be in,” said Delaney.
Pieridou said that the main gripe seems to be that vehicles have to circumnavigate the square, using the narrow village roads, which only adds a couple of extra minutes to each journey, and that people are not able to park at the square when they eat.
The traffic situation has been compounded by the recent closure of the main access road from Tala Village to Kamares village, due to a structurally dangerous, abandoned development that is sliding down a hillside.
However, the PDO said that the road would re-open in two to three months which will ease the situation, and the mukhtar added that the second phase of upgrades would solve many of the problems being mentioned, as the roads would be wider and pavements created.
“It’s not just a case of me saying yes either, there is a fountain there, children love it and play there, what if a car was passing and hit a child?”
As part of phase one, water pipes under the square were replaced, drainage improved and electricity cables placed underground. The square has also been paved, new lighting installed, flower beds planted and uniform pergolas added for businesses around the square.
The effect is stunning and many residents and business owners have expressed their delight at the new-look square.
“I like it much more as it is now and it is such a beautiful place. How can people think it’s more important to park outside a restaurant instead of walking a few paces,” a local business owner on the square told the Sunday Mail.
“However, it would be good if they could create some more parking spaces nearby and also allow tables, chairs and umbrellas outside the eateries,” he added.
Parking – around 100 spaces – is currently available underneath a large church and at the opposite end of the square, at an open-air car park nearby, according to Pieridou.
“The square is so beautiful and too small for a road, and the second phase is ready to be signed and should be. Some people just generally don’t like change,” said a local resident.
According to the PDO, in some instances, there are provisions in the law that state that if a community council is acting illogically or not complying, a request may be put before the relevant minister to request the withdrawal of some of their authority.
However, he stressed that this was not the way forward in this case.
“We don’t want it to come to any extreme measures and are continuing to negotiate in order for phase 2 to be signed.”