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Why is Sotira protesting?

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ΓιατΙ διαμαρ τyρεται η Σωτorρα;

What does the Local Plan provide that was canceled in practice six months after its publication

A photo that has been making the rounds on the internet for the last few days has drawn attention to the area of ​​Sotiras: on the left is a licensed building 110 meters high, while on the right, less than 500 meters away, is the SunCity hotel under construction, 33 meters high. , for which the Council of Ministers recently revoked the decision to grant a permit by way of derogation that had been taken under a previous government, which related to the construction of an additional floor. The first building is licensed, while the second is not.

The photo was taken during the new, large protest event organized last Sunday by residents and local bodies of the province of Famagusta, who blocked the Sotiras flyover for a while, protesting the way in which the effort to develop the Sotiras beach front is being dealt with, but and of the free province of Famagusta more broadly, from the point of view of the competent authorities and the government.

As the mayor of Sotiras, Mr. Giorgos Takkas, pointed out in his statements, the problem is not only focused on the specific development under construction, but on the overall hindering developments, as at least three applications for permits are pending before the Department of Urban Planning and Housing, which cannot proceed “due to a decision made behind closed doors”, as he states.

Γιατи διαμαρτy&rho ;εται η Σωτorρα;

The photo is making the rounds on the internet and depicts a 110-meter-high building that was approved by the relevant agencies, while just 480 meters to the right, a 33-meter hotel under construction, does not approved…

The consultation canceled in practice

But what exactly are residents and local authorities asking for? The free province of Famagusta and especially the area of ​​Sotiras and neighboring communities are characterized by strong seasonality in employment, which is largely dependent on summer tourism and agriculture. Both residents and local bodies believe that through the decisions of the competent departments and the government, despite any good intentions to protect the environment, the marginalization of the specific area is being attempted, as in essence the developments that can give a real boost to the local community through full-time employment.

After 7 years of intensive and thorough consultations, in 2020, with the participation of all relevant government departments, including the Department of the Environment, the Local Plan of Kokkinohoria was published, which includes Sotira. The beach front of Sotiras is included in the Tourist Zones that this defines. According to the Local Plan, for the Tourist Zones in question, the types and growth factors (building factor, coverage rate, height and number of floors) recorded in the Urban Planning Zone Plan as they are further analyzed, enriched and/or differentiated by individual apply welfare, policy measures, incentive schemes, etc. At the same time, according to the plan, the Urban Planning Authority has the discretion to allow developments with higher growth factors, while the legislation also gives everyone the right to apply for permits by way of derogation.

However, just six months later, a Special Ecological Assessment Report was drawn up with abbreviated procedures, which essentially removes any flexibility determined through the Local Plan and negates several of its provisions. This report is invoked to this day by the relevant departments, so that additional restrictions are applied to the development of the area in question, effectively canceling the Local Plan that emerged after years of consultation with all those in charge. As a result of this, twelve months after the publication of the Local Plan, the Council of Ministers excluded the Tourist Zones with special ecological value from the areas of application of the Plan for the Provision of Urban Planning Incentives for the Recovery of Business Activity in Cyprus.

The whole issue in the area has arisen due to the fact that some of the proposed developments abut, in some places, a Natura 2000 area, which was established in 2008, with the aim of protecting the Rock-plumidi bird. According to the Special Ecological Assessment report, one of the main objectives that have been set is to limit nuisance and traffic on the beach front. The local bodies support the existence of the Special Protection Zone on the coastal front, as it is a strategic advantage, however, they question whether the horizontal urban planning measures adopted by the Exhibition itself serve this objective.

ΓιατΙ διαμαρτ yρεται η Σωτorρα;

Local bodies and society protesting the decisions regarding the developments in the coastal area of ​​Sotiras, blocked the flyover near Agia Thekla for a short time, asking for equal treatment from the relevant departments.

< strong>As Mayor Sotiras meaningfully points out, based on the existing measures, a development that provides for the creation of 1000 beds and occupies a larger area of ​​land near the sea can receive approval, while another development on the same piece of land that occupies a smaller area of ​​land, the which is ecologically preferable and provides for the creation of 500 beds to be rejected, without even being examined, because it has drawn an additional building factor through incentives or has exceeded the permitted number of floors while the aim of the report is to limit the beds and consequently the tourism on the beach front .

Both the Municipality and the local bodies express themselves particularly strongly, as in their own perception, some try to create the impression that they are more interested in the environment than the local authorities and the local community. The Municipality of Sotiras has clarified, in a related announcement, that under no circumstances “does it wish for anarchic development in the area”. What he essentially asks for is “the implementation of the provisions of the Local Plan with the simultaneous adoption of appropriate environmental conditions to shield the Special Protection Zone”. In this context, he announced his intention to entrust the preparation of an independent environmental study to experts.

What residents and local authorities want

The position that is generally expressed is that the horizontal measures applied today are a brake on development, as due to this approach applications for developments, which may be environmentally preferable, are rejected, compared to others that may be approved because they move within the allowances. It is indicative that, after the decision of the cabinet to demolish the extra floor of Sun City, the builders are led to create a new hotel wing west of the existing one using the unused coefficients – practically, instead of building the wing in height, on top of the existing one building, a building will be added in width, which is obviously not environmentally preferable.

Therefore, what the local community and all important local bodies are asking for is that no decisions be made in their absence and that proposals for developments in the area in question not be rejected, before they have been assessed on their merits, in terms of their environmental impact. According to their opinion, the beachfront of Sotiras could be included in the Planning Incentives Plan for the Recovery of Business Activity in Cyprus, as the provisions of the Local Plan and the legislations related to the development sector could also be applied. This, for the purposes of proper environmental compliance, can be done by simultaneously assessing the proposed developments and approving or rejecting them, depending on the environmental impact they will have on the Special Protection Zone, rather than rejecting them in advance, as is the case today.

The Municipality of Sotiras will meet with the Minister of the Interior on July 14 on the matter, while he has requested and is waiting for a meeting with the Department of the Environment, declaring his readiness to proceed with the legal challenge of the Special Ecological Assessment. Until then, residents and local authorities are not excluded from escalating their protest measures, as they say they are determined to continue to claim what they see as justice for development in the area.

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Source: www.kathimerini.com.cy

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