The only plan being implemented in the Akamas is one of reducing the extent of the protected areas and conceding rights for large developments, the deputy chairman of the House environment committee said Wednesday.

Nicos Kettiros said efforts have been ongoing for decades to find the best solution for the ecologically sensitive peninsula but “unfortunately, interests do not allow this to become reality.”

Kettiros, an opposition Akel MP, said the government lacked the necessary will to make it happen.

A 2009 proposal to exchange land, transfer development rights, and compensation to landowners was never realised. The government has come up with a fresh plan, which conservationists say falls well short of protecting the area. From the opposite side, communities have also rejected the plan because it does not go as far as they would like as regards development rights.

“The only thing we see happening in recent years is the plan to reduce the extent of protected areas and a continuous effort to concede rights for big developments inside the Akamas,” Kettiros said.

He added that if plans did not include exchange of land based on environmental and zoning and town planning criteria, they would either fail or condemn the Akamas and the residents of the area.

Kettiros said his party disagreed with the government’s plan, which provides for smaller protected area and exempts 25 per cent of Natura 2000 zones.

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.

Conservationists on the other hand, argue that local communities were being used by other interests who were eyeing their properties for big developments.