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Archbishop denies demolishing listed houses, Disy proposes tougher penalties (Updated)

ΚΑΤΕΔΑΦΙΣΗ ΔΙΑΤΗΡΗΤΕΩΝ ΚΤΙΡΙΩΝ ΑΠΟ ΑΡΧΙΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΗ
The destroyed houses with the cathedral in the background (CNA)

Disy is submitting a bill to amend town planning law following the church-sanctioned demolition of listed buildings in old Nicosia, the party said on Thursday.

Disy’s parliamentary spokesman Nicos Tornaritis said the ruling party will be proposing amendments to existing legislation on listed buildings as part of the Town and Country Planning Law, to prevent their demolition at all costs.

The demolition on Monday of the four listed houses, close to the cathedral the archbishopric is building in Nicosia’s old city, sparked widespread outrage, with the mayor, political parties and the interior ministry insisting the houses must be rebuilt. The case is currently before the attorney-general.

Archbishop Chrysostomos, meanwhile, has written to the Nicosia mayor pledging to restore the houses and denying that he ordered them bulldozed.

The archbishopric was simply clearing up the area after one of the houses, damaged by heavy rain, collapsed, his letter to mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis reads.

Published on Thursday, the letters from Tuesday express the archbishopric’s willingness to proceed with the rebuilding of the four structures, specifying that restoration plans were already underway

The church prelate said the archbishopric’s concern was and still is, “the preservation of the area’s character and identity, creating a uniform appearance in this historic area of the capital.”

The archbishop said the property in question had sustained substantial deterioration, and after the intense weather phenomena of the (last) weekend, the mudbrick walls absorbed large quantities of water, resulting in a section collapsing, taking with it the roof and rendering it “dangerous for public safety”.

He said the house had been slated for restoration in the near future and a lot of money had been already spent shoring it up.

In its proposed legislation, Disy is suggesting a minimum fine of €50,000 not exceeding the estimated value of the building, for those demolishing or leaving a listed building fall into disrepair as a result of exposure to elements or negligence (excluding natural disasters), resulting in its collapse.

The second suggestion is to give the town planning department the power to order owners to restore a demolished structure to its previous state using the original materials.

Finally, Disy is suggesting that the town planning department should be given the authority to proceed with the rebuilding of torn down structures at the cost of the owner.

“We believe that the above amendments will ensure that in the future, no landowner will dare commit such unlawful actions, and that they will preserve the cultural legacy shared by us all,” Tornaritis said.

The bill will be submitted to parliament on Thursday.

Monday’s demolition was illegal, as it was conducted without the necessary permit required for construction work related to listed structures.

The original planning permits issued to the archbishopric for the construction of the controversial cathedral called for the restoration of the buildings.

 

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