Yeroskipou municipality was on Wednesday fully geared to appeal a town planning decision greenlighting the construction of a hotel by the archbishopric, in an area brimming with antiquities.
The municipality charged the town planning department “exhausted every letter of the law” to ensure they went over the local authority’s head, as they likely knew Yeroskipou would not approve of this plan.
Nikos Palios, who works at the municipality’s cultural department told the Cyprus Mail they were formally informed a few days ago from the town planning department, that they had approved a planning permit for the hotel.
The matter has been up in the air for years, since the late archbishop Chrysostomos sought to build a luxury hotel in Yeroskipou.
The discovery of antiquities on the site caused delays and became a severe point of dispute, after two camps effectively emerged: those who wanted to go ahead business as usual, and those who fought to protect the antiquities.
In the end, the antiquities department reached a deal with the church, that would ensure the antiquities must be freely available and accessible to the public.
“The fact of the matter however is that excavations have not finished yet. Therefore, we do not have the full picture at the site yet,” Palios said.
The agreement between the archbishopric and the department was months ago, and the latter specified the deal safeguards the antiquities.
Excavation works are still ongoing on the site.
According to Palios, Yeroskipou municipality had been asked to give their view over the development, which was initially presented as a nine-floor hotel.
The local authority responded at the time that it could not do this until excavation works were completed.
“The town planning department realised we would not agree to a nine-floor project.”
As such, Palios suggests the project was converted to a five-floor hotel, which would allow the town planning department to bypass the local authority. Yeroskipou municipality would no longer have to have a say in the matter.
The next step is that the church will submit its plans for a building permit. This must be submitted to the local authority.
“We can’t do much about this,” Palios notes, as it has its hands tied following the town planning department’s greenlight for the planning permit.
What it can – and will do – according to Palios, is appeal the decision.
“We are also discussing with civil groups who are planning to hold protests on the site. We want to fight this.”
Another idea is to urge the state to get involved. Some pieces of land in the area are state-owned and Palios suggests those could be swapped with those currently holding the antiquities, so as to protect the discovered heritage.
Akel also called on the government to rescind the decision taken in 2017, that placed the site as a schedule B ancient monument.