The final plan for the Akamas proposed by the environment department is being examined to find a balanced solution, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Tuesday.
He was speaking a day after a meeting of all stakeholders at the presidential palace led to accusations of foot dragging on proposals and sabotaging the protection of the region.
Nouris said President Nicos Anastasiades, who chaired Monday’s meeting, hopes to find a plan for Akamas that will take all parties involved into consideration.
He added that the protection and preservation of the environment are paramount but that the plan should also accommodate the local community, allow for development of small-scale tourism and economic sustainability.
Nouris added that the plan is “complex” but the environment department’s final opinion is binding and must be respected.
Earlier president of the Green Party Charalambos Theopemptou was pessimistic about Monday’s meeting, saying that ultimately the desired outcome is that parts of the region will be built-up areas made up of rural residences and large developments.
Theopemptou clarified that there are three distinct areas within Akamas: the state forest, which cannot be touched, excluding some beachfront development as well as roads; special conservation areas which also cannot be touched; and non-protected areas which is where leeway in legislation is currently being sought.
The meeting at the palace was geared towards the government finding a final solution to the Akamas before its term expires. Participants included the ministers of interior and agriculture, the urban planning council and officials from various competent authorities.
Anastasiades himself questioned whether the Republic could approach the European Commission and request that development rights be granted to communities where properties have remained cut off for 40 years, albeit with the least possible impact on the environment.
The two ministers disagreed however with the agriculture minister supporting the environment department as having correctly overturned the proposals of the urban planning council, and the interior minister arguing that the environment department’s review only considers environmental factors to the exclusion of economic and social needs.
The former said approaching the EU would not yield positive results and non-adoption of requirements could land the Republic in hot water with the EU Commission.
The director of urban planning agreed that the environment department provisions are binding and non-compliance would not be well-received in Brussels.
In response to the dilemma, however, he proposed a ‘Solomon’s solution’, suggesting that restrictions remain but, at the same time, the planning council be given the opportunity to review the plan and re-adjust planning zones, without running counter to environmental opinions.
Within a month, the planning council’s proposals should be submitted to the environment department for re-evaluation, giving the department one month to formulate its final opinion.