Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said that he has not been pressured by big interests on the Akamas plan but conceded that changes should have been made by now.

The minister sought to set the record straight amid complaints about the sclerotic process of the plan being finalised, compounded by skepticism that special interests are exerting influence behind the scenes.

In an interview with daily Politis published on Wednesday, the minister said that he has never been approached for such favours and neither has he been pressured as it is clear that this would not work on him.

The minister conceded that he has heard rumours of wheeling and dealing on aspects of the Akamas plan during the presidential election campaign.

“I have not witnessed this in person, but if it did happen in front of me then I would report it publicly,” Kadis said.

He stressed, however, that these are just rumours and he would not comment further.

“Whether the plan is published before or after the elections it must harmonise with the requirements,” he said, referring to the environment authority’s opinion.

The opinion on the proposed plan was published in late August and saw key constraints slapped on some of the more ambitious development proposals – such as isolated housing.

Kadis stressed that he is not aware of any agriculture department staff being pressured either.

“The environment authority’s opinion on the plan contradicted those who claimed that ‘Akamas would be sacrificed on the alter of big interests’ and that the agriculture department would facilitate that,” he said.

Asked why the town planning department has not yet revised the plan with the new restrictions in place, Kadis said that the process should indeed have been completed by now.

He offered, however, that the changes required are wide ranging in their scope and alter the character of the plan put forward by the town planning department – implying that they need more time.

Kadis was pressed as to whether it is truly possible to satisfy both the local community’s demands for further development opportunities and the goal of protecting the environment.

He said it is certainly possible as those seeking more development will achieve exactly that, emphasising that the building rate within the existing zones is at just 17 per cent. Kadis emphasised that under the environment authority’s opinion the plan would allow for those zones to be expanded by a further 21 per cent.

The minister also reasoned that one shouldn’t just consider the monetary value of the land left outside the building zones, but how the value of the land within those zones is boosted by keeping the Akamas intact.

He argued that it will help create a unique tourist product with an inspiring character, which will draw investment and job opportunities.

Finally, the minister said that it is important for there to be a compensation framework for landowners who will not be allowed to develop their properties in certain areas, such as Natura 2000 sites.