Peyia ponders what steps to take after losing her court case to block development on the hillside above the city of Paphos.
The local municipality has challenged the government’s decision to issue a permit for the massive development of Ayia Vouni (Sacred Mountain), a hillside overlooking Peyia, saying it would cause irreversible environmental damage, put pressure on infrastructure and create new homes, while thousands already built remain empty.
“We are considering a possible appeal. We have 42 days from December 14, 2020, when the decision was made, and I cannot believe the result,” Linda Leblanc, Peya’s adviser, told Cyprus Mail.
“I didn’t see what documents were presented by Peya and what documents were handed over to the lawyer, but in my opinion, this should not have been rejected by the judge, since there is enough evidence on the two main points that are required.”
The building permit was received on 28 July.
While the project is billed as green and sustainable, Leblanc notes that it will be built next to the protected Pikney forest, with a small portion also making it into the Natura 2000 network.
The development was proposed after building policy changes were made in 2014 regarding the promotion, regulation and control of a new type of development in rural areas aimed at improving construction efficiency.
The developer of the project is former President George Vassiliou, who purchased about 330,000 sq. m in Peyia.The project, described as a “near-zero energy sustainable development and settlement project”, receives funding from the EU as part of its zero energy initiative.
Leblanc explained that by law, Peya had to highlight two points in order to stop the project: the public interest and specific reparations issues.
“The judge said the government said everything was fine and there was no concrete or sufficient evidence to support this case and it was dismissed.”
As part of the surveys undertaken for Peyi’s Master Plan, the Department of Geology recently discovered stability issues in a number of areas of Peyi, including the entire coastline, hills above the city. Including the site of the proposed development, and other areas in between, she said.
“There is ample evidence that this huge development should not continue. This can destabilize the area and affect the city center. Heavy rain will also cause big problems.”
Klitos Papastilianou of the Cyprus Natural Coastline and Communities Initiative has previously stated that construction should not proceed as it does not meet almost all sustainability criteria.
“We raised some concerns about the environmental impact assessment and filed an objection. There is a definition of the environment in accordance with the law on assessment: water, climate, habitat, and so on. This project is not viable in almost every aspect,” he said.According to the rules, the investor must meet certain project criteria regarding “strategic use” and “secondary use”, the latter must be a much lower percentage. However, Papastilianou stated that this was not the case.
Peyia Council has previously expressed documented concerns about the development and asked the city planning department to refrain from approving any permits until all necessary studies have been completed and studied.
Some of the concerns raised include the height of buildings, possible landslides and flooding, water supply, and public access roads.