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Property

Failure of a district officer to consult with local authority

coucounis 2

The district officer gives consent to the EAC to extend its network through a property, after consulting with the local authority

 

The Electricity Authority of Cyprus often needs to extend its network to provide electricity to new residential units or areas under development. The installation of electric poles with supports and wires on neighbouring properties or cables under them may be required.

As the contractor, the EAC must inform the owners of affected properties by asking for their consent or if they cannot be found, place a sign on the plots and post a notice of the intention. If there has been no reply, objection of conditions imposed, the EAC informs them that it will contact the relevant district officer to obtain consent for the necessary works.

At the same time, the EAC informs the owners of the affected properties that it undertakes in the future to move the lines if they obstruct development of the properties. If the relocation is not feasible for technical reasons, the EAC must pay the owner fair compensation and in the case of disagreement the matter will go to court.

Consultation of the district officer with the competent local authority, meaning the municipal council or community council, is a legal obligation. Relevant is the provision of Article 31(1) of the Electricity Law, Cap. 170, which provides that the district officer after consultation may give consent to the installation of electric lines, either unconditionally or with terms and conditions. The granting of consent by the district officer to the EAC, without prior consultation, affects the legality of the EAC’s decision, rendering it subject to annulment on recourse to the administrative court.

In one case a property owner objected to the extension of the electricity network and was affected by the decision of the EAC, which got consent from the district officer. The owner filed an appeal to the administrative court, challenging the decision to install an electricity network on the plot of her property, adding the district officer to her recourse after amendment. It was contended that the procedure followed up to the issuance of the impugned decision was considered as illegal, since there was a violation of the provisions of the Law, namely Article 31(1). Specifically, the owner submitted that the district officer did not consult the local authority as was required and as expressly mandated before giving consent.

The administrative court in its decision issued on November 8 in Case No. 933/2019, stated that at the stage of the arguments, both the lawyer of the EAC and the Republic of Cyprus stated that they would not continue to argue the legality of the contested decision, after having established that the ground for annulment raised was valid. The court pointed out that the nature of the review under the system governing its jurisdiction is primarily to review the legality of administrative acts and omissions, in order to restore the rights of the applicants in the field of public law that have been affected.

The court added that the process of investigating legality belongs to the court itself, with the parties playing a supporting role in detecting the facts and establishing the principles governing the determination of legality in each case. With regard to the term ‘local government authority’, it referred to Article 2 of Cap.170, where it has the meaning given to that term by Article 2 of the Communities Law, which expressly provides that it means a municipal council and a community council.

It concluded that it did not appear that there was any consultation by the district officer with the local authority, and as a result, a violation of the statutory provision and the prescribed procedure was established. The error affected the validity and legality of the impugned decision, rendering it subject to annulment. The court consequently annulled the contested decision as null and void.

 

George Coucounis is a lawyer practicing in Larnaca and founder of George Coucounis LLC, Advocates & Legal Consultants, [email protected]

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