The federation of environmental organisations on Tuesday expressed its support for the finalised Akamas plan, which it said succeeds in walking the fine line between conservation and sustainable development.

Speaking on CyBC radio, scientific officer of the federation, Klitos Papastylianou, praised the effort made towards fairness in the plan, saying that the maximum number of concessions possible had been made in favour of landowners in the local communities, without short-changing the environment.

Some communities will see their development radius enlarged by up to 20 per cent while, for others, double their area currently falls within permitted development zones, Papastylianou said.

The remaining sticking point is compensation for expropriated and rezoned lands, Papastylianou added.

Compensatory measures have been a thorny issue with the outgoing ministers of agriculture and finance recently exchanging pots shots over the lack of decision-making that dragged the Akamas plan to yet another halt.

For his part, Papastylianou laid the blame squarely in the lap of outgoing Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, claiming that his ministry, which is the first-stop for determining building zones, “did nothing for two years”.

Papastylianou nonetheless took a ‘silver lining’ approach to the fact that the plan’s implementation will be delayed by another six months, saying that it gave time for important gaps, namely compensatory and incentivisation measures and quarry rights, to be properly hammered out, without setting bad precedents for the future.

Speaking on the contentious matter of Androlikou and the Paphos quarry companies’ concern over deposits running out, Papastylianou said that some expansion rights had in fact been granted, which secured quarry materials for the Paphos district for the next five years.

In addition, a new comprehensive study is to be launched, which will evaluate all possible options for quarry zones in the region within the next three years, so that proper decisions can be made, he said.

Beyond this, the six-month delay, albeit unnecessary, will allow the Peyia local development plan to be evaluated in tandem with the Akamas plan, as large swathes of that municipality (the Peyia forest, Avakas Gorge, and the sea caves) all fall within the protected region.

Asked to elaborate on incentivisation measures for protection of agro zones enclosed within the Natura 2000 area and ‘visitor farms’ in particular, Papastylianou said all existing installations are to be charted and assessed within the next four months. Farms which have existed for at least five years prior to the plan’s publication are to be evaluated and will be considered legal under certain criteria.

Papastylianou stated his belief that the compensatory measures would not be prohibitively costly for the state, as they apply to only a small number of land owners–strictly those whose land dropped in value by being reclassed from a development to a protected zone.

President of the Akamas private land owners association, Savvas Hadjiminas, however, challenged Papastylianou on this point, stating that several categories of landowners should in fact be eligible for compensation, such as those having seen a drastic reduction in building coefficient, and others who saw the value of their land steadily decline over the past 33 years.

Hadjiminas also pointed out that the communities in the region urgently require road building as a prerequisite for sustainable development of land that does fall within officially registered building zones, a point which Papastylianou conceded.