The government will hold one more month of consultations with Akamas communities before the formal publication of its plan for the area, a peninsula of high environmental importance.

The decision was made during a meeting between the leaders of the communities with President Nicos Anastasiades to whom they expressed their demand for more development to be allowed in the area.

“The conclusion of today’s meeting is that November will be the month of final consultations between the ministers of interior and agriculture and the leaders of the Akamas area so that we go ahead with the final publication of the plan in December,” Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said.

Nouris said the meeting discussed the sticking points that remained “which mostly concern development issues that must be in line with the environmental policies.”

The minister said the government had to balance between granting development rights and adhering to the rules stipulated by environmental legislation.

Nouris said they were close to publishing the plan in December.

Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said the solutions being discussed were within the parameters of sustainability, providing “substantive protection to the unique natural environment of the area, respect European directives, and at the same time afforded the communities the potential to benefit from the operation of a modern national park.”

For decades, communities in the Akamas peninsula and Polis Chrysochous, whose areas fall within the EU Natura 2000 network, have been pushing for more development, arguing that due to strict town planning regulations they have been unable to exploit their properties. They also argue that this leads to the decline of their area since young people opt to move to urban areas to seek employment, due to lack of prospects in their communities.

In September the environment department presented its conclusions on the government’s Akamas national forest park development plan, upon consulting the environmental impact assessment report commissioned by the forestry department.

The study was deemed necessary as the area corresponds to 75 per cent of the Natura 2000 protected areas, Site of Community Interest (SCI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) Akamas Peninsula.

Under the plan, visitors to the park will need to pay an entrance fee and will not be able to use their private cars to enter. Instead, bicycle rental stations and a park shuttle service have been proposed.

The project’s major feature is the 14 proposed service points that will be scattered across the park area, offering a variety of facilities – from designated parking spots, toilets and information points to refreshment kiosks, bike rental spots, souvenir shops and park shuttle shelters.

Most of the proposed points got the green light, with the exception of the one in Tzifi, which the environment department decided will not go forward. Plans for a few others are to be changed to protect local flora and fauna, with changes including everything from moving parking areas away from park entrances and protected vegetation, to making sure kiosks and bus shelters take up as little space as possible.

The Akamas masterplan also includes the expansion of residential and tourist zones in several villages, but not enough to suit the local communities.