The roads being built in Akamas are not wider than originally planned, the outgoing head of the forestry department Charalambos Alexandrou said on Monday, in a swansong statement on the debate over the roadworks in this environmentally sensitive area.

Alexandrou issued a lengthy statement about the controversial works in the Akamas, which have been decried by environmental groups as violating the agreed framework for the development of the peninsula.

One of the most hotly disputed works has been the roads, which appeared to be much wider than foreseen in environmental studies of the area.

“No wider roads are being built. The characteristics of the roads are in accordance with the resolutions and the works carried out in accordance with the construction plans, even those approved by the cabinet,” Alexandrou said. “The alleged difference arises because not all the works in the construction plans are taken into account.”

Alexandrou went on to say that the roads appeared wider, because areas have been dug out for parking and other works like dividers and walls.

The outgoing forestry department head said that the roads will also be used by fire trucks that might have to respond to potential forest fires.

Meanwhile, he hit out at environmental groups saying that they want to redesign the already agreed plan.

“There seems to be a more general problem in terms of decision-making. You cannot discuss an issue for more than 40 years, prepare a plan, have the plan and its implementation be the subject of such exhaustive consultation with all stakeholders for five years, have decisions taken at the highest possible level, … be submitted and secure three environmental permits, and talk about redesign,” he said.

He added that the plan and its implementation details are balanced and consider the conservation status of the area as a Natura 2000 site.

“An issue that has been discussed for more than 40 years and on which there are diametrically opposed views cannot be a design that is fully and 100 per cent agreed and satisfactory to all stakeholders. Neither the Forestry Department, nor myself personally agree fully 100 per cent,” he said.

Commenting on the government’s reaction, Alexandrou said the new government until the issue was raised that supposedly wider roads are being built, “did nothing to make the above mechanism work, did not even ask for information, even though today it talks about a sensitive ecosystem and that a redesign of the projects is required”.

The government can change the arrangement for decision making and planning, but there are issues, he said.

For the decisions to change and the plan to change there will need to be more committees and consultants brought in for the redesign.

He questioned that if another group conducts the redesign, how different would it be from the current plan?

“It is my view that it [the difference] cannot be large and that, however large that difference may be, it will not make a substantial difference to the objective of minimising impacts for the simple reason that under the current design the impacts are non-existent to negligible, a view held by reputable academics,” he said.

“One thing is certain, it will prolong the unacceptable status quo to the detriment of the environment and the local community.”

Last week, the Green party said roadworks in Akamas will have to be corrected in part, following a visit by foreign experts to the site who were invited by the agriculture ministry to examine the damage done.

They also requested to meet with the president over the matter.