Red tape and delays related to planning and building permits are soon to be a thing of the past, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Monday.

Changes are underfoot in a bid to drastically eliminate the chronic problems with backlogs and systemic delays in the sector, Ioannou told state broadcaster CyBC.

The minister said he had requested an action plan last summer to address the well-known and pervasive problems.

He explained the resulting plan will be implemented in concert with local government reform, expected to go into effect on July 1, and will radically simplify the role of municipalities, as well as that of the ten regional planning authorities, and the land registry.

“The new system will simplify the permit procedures, reduce time delays, [and] ease the process for applicants to the planning department or the land registry,” Ioannou said.

He went on to detail that the action plan involves making 22 changes of which only one requires a change in legislation.

“[Most] are decrees from the ministry directly to the planning department, some of which are already in force,” Ioannou said.

The one change that will require legal regulation is a bill making it unnecessary to secure a permit for any construction categorised as low risk, such as a residence or a building of up to 12 apartments, the minister said.

Under the new protocol, responsibility for the project’s compliance and feasibility will be borne by private planners, along with the introduction of a state-licenced surveying officer, who will inspect the construction works at their start, middle and end, to ensure requirements are met.

Not every single project will be checked, however while fines for violations will be steeper, Ioannou said.

This would allow private planners to begin works within their company timeframes, rather than getting held up waiting for responses from the authorities, which can currently take up to three years.

The proposed change is expected to go into effect in a matter of months, Ioannou said.

“We are already in consultation with Etek [Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber] on this point, from there it will go to the legal services and then to parliament for approval,” Ioannou said.

In a significant number of cases, hold ups were due to permits being applied for with incomplete paperwork, for example, without securing (where required) outcomes from services such as the EAC, and the fire department, or the department of public works, the minister said.

Since October last year, such incomplete applications are no longer accepted for processing, the minister said, and this eliminates the need for insufficiently staffed departments to act as the “middle man”.

Another new requirement expected to speed things up is that the project must be demarcated by a licensed private surveyor rather than waiting for planning department staff to carry out the task before application, Ioannou said.

Equally important is a decree in effect since December 22 that applicants, prior to submission, must clear land development requirements, such as whether the proposed construction is in line with designated green spaces and street planning.

Up until now, applications would be stuck in limbo and go back-and-forth until issues such as the above were resolved.

It is expected that the new measures, where a large part of the process will be shunted to private actors, will tighten-up the process and do away with delays caused by the piecemeal approach of the past, including having to wait for non-responsive parties which would put other applications on hold, the minister concluded.