Keep up with the incentives, Mr. President
The whole property and construction sector has been following the proposals by President Nicos Anstasiades to adopt on a permanent basis a set of development incentives which he declared in May, 2013.
At the same time, we continue to monitor the permanent rejectionists (including members of the Technical Chamber ETEK) who do not embrace the President’s incentives, giving various excuses, which seem childish to those of us who deakl with every stage of the construction industry and see unemployment levels soaring, particularly among young technicians.
There is a perception among some that the area of ??Cyprus is about that of Australia, with enough land left over for future generations. This is why we have a flimsy urban policy inherited from previous technocrats, with low building coefficients, minimal heights and in the end we waste whatever land is left. The future strategy and policies for urban areas need a radical restructure from the beginning, and not a patch up job that causes distortions, while the permanent adoption of some new incentives is a start.
The President should go ahead with his incentives, and ignore the building factor precious land, which in coastal areas is 20% and in other regions 15%. This is why we have military-style development that look like barracks from Protaras to Latchi serving the rich foreign buyers, while the rest of us locals are limited to non-coastal areas. These are developments that the President and the Minister of Interior should visit to see first hand the monstrous mistakes of the past. The coefficient for construction and the height limitation on buildings should be relevant to the value of land and instead of looking like army-style camps, wouldn’t it be better for the building factor to increase to levels of 100% or 150% in coastal areas and urban peripheries, always maintaining a level that could be increased if necessary in the future?
The greatly respected urban planner Angelos Demetriou, who was hired by Paralimni municipality, recently proposed that in Protaras projects be allowed to rise to 6-8 floors, or more, with a coefficient of 150% and tall buildings where all units offer views to the sea and have large open spaces around, both for landscaping and playgrounds, parking spaces and green spaces. But nobody listened to him. Not only that, some even retorted that Protaras would be transformed into “Miami Beach”. As a result of these conservative views, Protaras remained with a building factor of 45 which was not only not increased, but the new policy is to reduce it to 30% for housing units. But with coastal land values in the region in the region of 300 euros per sq.m., is an increase in the coefficient not justified? For hotels, should the building factor not be at least 200% and for residential purposes 60-100%? Some of the “luminaries” in charge of urban planning are afraid that the coastal areas will not withstand the alleged overpopulation. Is this, then, the reason why Latchi and Larnaca sre still stuck with a coefficient of 15-20% and continue to suffer from nondevelopment?
President Anastasiades should proceed with the incentives and reforms, because past mistakes must be avoided. Already, the original 10% coefficient for golf courses has been raised to 15%, while the see the original building factor of 20% for marinas was hiked to 160%. The problem with the Governmental Committee on the Environment and the Environment Commissioner (remember the Limni project that was cleaned and transformed from a toxic landfill into a resort) is that the huge delays and obstacles laid by the Council for relaxations is driving away foreign investors.
The wider urban policy should be guided by the welfare of the citizens, job creation and local development. This is what the European Court decided when it ruled in favour of the Government of Hungary, that wanted to allow the expansion of an existing industrial project within a vast expanse of a Natura-designated area.
During a recent meeting I had with an AmericanArmenian investor, he told me “the coast of Lebanon, especially in Beirut and despite the problems in the area, is still a centre of attraction, with large condominiums and projects while you here are still planning with the village attitudes of the 1960s.”
Another horror story is just as we try to develop the casino resort, parliament imposed a building factor that must exceed 50% and in this case all the green spaces and other must be reduced by 30%.
It hard to find reason
by individuals and by ETEK, which has appointed itself as the ultimate advisor to the State. There may be nothing wrong with that, but as an advisor it should bear responsibility for the bad advice it might give and should even face a fine of the Council decision is incorrect. Where was ETEK when the government needed advice to revive the construction sector? What tangible measures did it propose for the Makarios Ave. and the centre of Nicosia? And what are its views for the old centre of Paphos and the area of the refineries in Larnaca?
Is, then, the 14-floor Olympic Tower in Limassol bad and is it wrong for hotels to increase the building coefficients at a time when some of these premium properties have been upgraded and generate more revenues and job opportunities? It is ironic that on coastal properties, the owner can not build private access within the protection zone, while the state has every to put up parking lots within the same zoning area. Is this not why foreign investors are hesitant about investing in international university projects in Limassol but have found obstacles related to limitations on parking areas?
These are the many issues that should be up for discussion and I hope we do not see the construction industry, that drove the economy at one stage, to be regulated in such a way that it will not be able to stand on its feet again.
This is why the President should not listen too hard to these “doubting Thomases”, but should proceed with incentives and practical proposals that should help cut down on unemployment, especially among the younger technicians, who are obliged to seek their fortune in the Arab countries with booming construction sectors, while we end up arguing with various “experts”, of whom we must admit there are many.
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