British high commissioner Stephen Lillie celebrated the “huge milestone” in Cyprus-UK ties on Monday outlining the new deal for development in the British bases.

The British bases, comprising 254 square kilometers – three per cent of the island’s territory, will allow for the construction of houses, shops, schools, restaurants and light industrial facilities while third-country nationals will be able to live, operate and establish businesses in the bases.

Senior UK and bases officials spoke at the presidential palace on Monday morning, hailing opportunities which are to be opened up from May 16 through the 2014 deal agreed with Former British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“The implementation of the non-military development agreement is a huge milestone in our bilateral relationship and will allow development opportunities for thousands of Cypriots living in the bases,” Lillie said.

“I take pride in the fact that we have worked together with our Cypriot friends to deliver a change that will have a real and positive impact on people’s prosperity.”

President Nicos Anastasiades said that the deal marks the largest shift in land use since the founding of the Republic, explaining that 80 per cent of land in the bases’ has now shifted status. As such, there will now be 6,150 hectares open to development – a move which will boost the economy, he said.

Also speaking at the presidential palace, commander of the British forces in Cyprus major general Rob Thomson reiterated that the development is subject to environmental and security concerns. The bases are home to sensitive ecosystems.

The lifting of restrictions on property development within the non-military areas will more closely align the regulations with those in the Republic.

Previously, property owners within the bases were only allowed to carry out housing development. From May 16 they will be able to sell to non-locals, Europeans and third country nationals based on the relevant Republic legislation.

A joint statement published on Monday stated that the new policies and accompanying maps will be published in their final form on May 16 and will be available for inspection by any member of the public.

It added that from the same date property owners will be able to submit planning and building applications under the new regime. At the same time, for a period of four months from the publication, any member of the public will also be able to submit objections, to inform future changes.

When the deal was first announced in 2014, former Citizens’ Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas argued that the agreement poses a risk of the Greek Cypriots being outnumbered in the bases area, mainly by British nationals, which could lead to an attempt to hold an internal referendum and turn the bases into another colony like Gibraltar.

The new agreement affects three municipalities (Ipsonas, Kato Polemidia and Dherynia) and 16 communities (Asomatos, Trachoni, Kolossi, Erimi, Sotira, Paramali, Avdimou, Akrotiri, Frenaros, Avgorou, Afheritos, Pyla, Ormidhia, Xylotympou, Xylofagou and Achna) in the districts of Limassol, Larnaca and Famagusta.