The government will stand by Larnaca and both will have a close and meaningful relationship, Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou said on Monday, during his visit to the city.

During the visit, he was informed about the removal and dismantling of the oil storage facilities and the decision to reverse the city’s characterisation as a ‘Seveso area’ according to an EU directive to help prevent industrial accidents and protect the environment and the economy.

The minister stated that “as confirmed by the labour inspection department, the removal of the oil and gas facilities from Larnaca has been completed safely. The area is safe, it is clean, it has been declassified [as a Seveso area] and it can be developed,” he said.

He added that “today is important and celebratory for Larnaca because decades of struggle have brought an important result.

“Fights made by the local authorities by the officials of the city, by the local community, culminating in the current mayor, municipal council, and MPs of the city who worked very methodically in this direction, today we have the beginning of a new development era for the city.”

For his part, Larnaca Mayor Andreas Vyras said: “Today is a historic day for our city, perhaps one of the most historic – a milestone on the path of Larnaca because in order to achieve this result, Friday was the most official and essential way to do it, with the declassification of the area from the Seveso Directive, because it was the last obstacle, which reminded us of the dangerousness of the area, because this specific directive was something necessary to ensure as much as possible the safety of the people of Larnaca. The fact that the directive is gone means that the danger with which we have been sleeping and waking up for decades is permanently and irrevocably gone with it.”

He added that another important element is the fact that the path of development is now opening for the city in an area where for years it was a serious obstacle, since no one wanted to invest or live in the Larnaca.

Answering a question, the mayor said that the road is long and the first big change is that there are no longer large storage facilities.

All the permits for the demolition of the gas storage facilities have already been submitted, of which four have already been issued and the other two will be issued soon he said, adding that by the end of the year there will be no gas facilities either since they will have demolished.

He added that two building licences have already been submitted in the Larnaca nautical association, while later in the year the master plan will be submitted.

“In the next 1-2 years, the first developments will begin, for which there is great interest. However, these developments must be done properly, given that all environmental factors are 100 per cent settled and that the appropriate infrastructure will also start at the same time, which must precede private developments,” he said.

He added that the municipal team works daily, with private researchers and the department of urban planning, while the first permits have already been filed.

Asked how long the cleaning of the soil will take, the mayor replied that it depends on each company.

“In LPG installations, there probably won’t be a burden, because LPG is the most dangerous material, but it doesn’t cause a burden on the ground. However, the cleaning process will take one to two years,” he said.

The mayors of Leivadia, Voroklini, MPs, and other party representatives were all present during the minister’s visit.