Hiccups should be expected once the new district-level organisations take over licensing for town planning and building, the interior minister said on Thursday.

Constantinos Ioannou made the comments coming out of his first courtesy meeting with the newly elected heads of the five District Self-Governance Organisations, which as of July 1 will take charge of such functions as issuing building permits, water supply and sewerage.

The minister said he wanted to be “frank” about the transition to the new system of administration, so as not to create “excessive expectations” among the public, as he put it.

“I’m confident we’ll get off to a good start. That said, there may be some problems in the beginning,” Ioannou noted.

The big challenge ahead relates to transferring licensing to the five district-level organisations from the 10 different town planning and 36 building authorities – now to be abolished.

In the long run, said the minister, this streamlining would lead to faster licensing procedures and therefore lower costs.

To beef up the new district-level organisations, the government has green-lit the hiring of 85 staff. They will join the people working at licensing departments within municipalities, who will now be moved to the district-level entities.

Asked about the state of readiness at the new-fangled district-level entities, Ioannou said each had different circumstances. For example, up until now neither Paphos nor Famagusta had dedicated water boards – unlike Nicosia, Larnaca and Limassol.

Regarding the pending town planning and building permits – estimated at 35,000 – the minister said these would exist whether the reform of local government had taken place or not.

But now, with the extra staff hired, he was hopeful about speedy processing.

Earlier, the government had alerted the public that the district offices of the Department for Town Planning and Housing will close on June 14, and as of that date will no longer accept applications.

The department’s district offices will stop functioning altogether as of Friday June 14, in preparation for the transition to the new system of local government kicking off on July 1, which will see the five district-level organisations take over the role of the Department for Town Planning and Housing. The new five district-level organisations will operate in the districts of Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos and Famagusta.