Massive Peyia project raises concerns
By Bejay Browne
A MASSIVE development proposed for a hillside above Peyia in Paphos will irreversibly devastate the natural environment, put pressure on infrastructure and create new homes where thousands remain empty, according to environmentalists, opposed to the project.
Concerns are being raised over the project at Ayia Vouni (Sacred Mountain), which is being pitched as green and sustainable, and will be built next to the protected Pikni forest; a small part will also fall within the Natura 2000 network.
This is the first time that this sort of development has been proposed in Cyprus since changes were introduced to building policy in 2014, which concerns the promotion, regulation and control of a new type of development in the countryside – ‘integrated development of multiple and large uses’-which aims to provide increased building efficiency.
Environmentalists and members of the public attended a council meeting in Peyia on Wednesday to observe a presentation given by representatives of the projects’ developer, former president of the Republic of Cyprus, George Vassiliou.
Vassiliou acquired around 330,000 m2 in Peyia and the design is described as a ‘sustainable development project and a near zero energy settlement’. The project is receiving one million euros funding from the EU as part of the Zero energy initiative.
However, Klitos Papastylianou of the ‘initiative for the natural coastline and commons of Cyprus’, attended the meeting and said that he believes that the development should not go ahead as it poses a number of negative impacts.
“Some months ago, ahead of the meeting, we raised some concerns with the environmental impact assessment and filed an objection. According to the law on assessing there is a definition of the environment; water, climate, habitat and so on. This project is unsustainable on almost all aspects.”
Papastylianou said that under the regulations, the investor has to meet certain criteria for the project concerning the ‘strategic use’ and ‘secondary use’, the latter should be a far smaller percentage. However, he said in this case it is not.
“The strategic uses are the rehabilitation centre (medical) and a research and development centre (technology, environment and energy consumption) and make up only 5% of this project, whereas the secondary uses, such as the village centre- with bars, restaurants, banks, shops and a gallery- as well as infrastructure, such as, roads, small dams, a waste treatment plant and residential development, will account for 95%.”
In the last year, Peyia council has twice raised documented concerns over the development and requested that the town planning department refrain from issuing any permits be approved until all of the necessary studies have been completed and examined.
Some of the concerns raised include height of buildings, possible landslides and flooding, water supply and public access roads.
Peyia councillor Linda Leblanc said that the meeting raised a number of questions and the council will again write of their concerns to the planning department.
The Nicosia planning department is responsible for granting permission for the development, although Peyia is responsible for issuing a building permit if the project gets the go ahead, she said.
The area proposed for the project falls outside the designated building zone, is on a steep slope and will include four storey high apartment blocks (145 units) and 125 villas. It is planned to be constructed in two phases
Papastylianou said that as there are currently already around 6,500 buildings in Peyia with 3,000 or so already lying empty, it is nonsensical to create more buildings. He also questioned how these would then be rented or sold.
A spokesman for the company carrying out the studies, environmental consultants I.A.CO Ltd said that there would be no ‘significant impact’ on the flora and fauna in the protected area.
“Only 0.25m2 is inside the Natura 2000 area and there won’t be a significant impact on the flora and fauna there.”
He said that a geotechnical study was also carried out to identify the areas that have some geo instability. “From the entire area of the project, only 5% have some issues, such as unstable rocks.”
In other areas, he said that the bed rock is suitable and ‘stable for the development.’ However, he said that some measures must be taken during construction.
“This is nothing unusual, we have studied the area and there isn’t any reasons for concern. There are solutions to stabilise the area during construction.”
He said that these geotechnical solutions would be further investigated during construction.
Papastylianou said that although the company are recognising the impact of the project, they are also claiming that there will also be a positive impact by creating new jobs and helping the construction sector.
“How can you say that this is a positive impact on the socioeconomics of an area when half the buildings in Peyia are already empty?”
He said it is clear that the natural environment will suffer a severe negative and irreversible impact, and not just Ayiou Vouni, but the entire area.
“The same can be said for the landscape, as the development is on a mountain top and will be seen from all over Peyia. The mountain will be transformed instead of protected.”
There are also concerns that there will be a huge impact on water resources, and the environmentalist said this raises the question, does the water development department have enough water to supply the area? One fourth of the existing consumption will be added by the project, he said.
“According to the relevant study, the development will need 30 tonnes of water per hour, the allowance for all of Peyia is currently 120 tonnes.”
There are also serious concerns of the geology of the area, on the East is the Skali river and in the South West the Sterarkakon, both areas are characterised by landslides. There is a risk of escalation of this phenomenon in the study, he said.
Environmentalists also say there will be a total transformation of the morphology of the area, as there will be excavation and cutting down of trees.
“It is currently an untouched pristine natural environment and it will be totally destroyed and almost half of it sealed by concrete.”
Leblanc said there were also concerns over proposed green areas and public access as the hillside is so steep with only one entrance and exit road.
“We were also told that 43 million euros would come to Peyia as direct benefits, such as taxes and so on, and 126 million euros in indirect benefits. We will be asking questions at the council,” she said.