Green development must be taken seriously
The issue of the environment and green development has not been taken seriously, neither by private individuals nor by the competent Authorities. Certainly, there has been a gradual improvement over the last 5-6 years and to this end, both the increased sensitivity of citizens, and the acquisition of expertise (transplanting trees, ready grass, old tree introduction from abroad, new irrigation systems, etc.) have helped. But more imagination and perseverance is needed to improve the environment and for this reason this whole package should be considered part of any building permit, by submitting a detailed planting maintenance programme of private and public green space, even for private homes (planting around the site, etc). I therefore submit the following proposals for joint reflection and discussion:
• Part of the building permit should include planting trees subject to the relevant conditions (a thought suggested with some reservation, as it may cause further delays in the issuance of a permit). But there should be some safeguards to protect the frustrated citizen who has been burdened with mountains of permits needed.
• Apart from a list of trees and their location, to submit the age of trees (very important, especially in view of what happens with planting 30cm seedlings), the watering and maintenance system, and water source.
• The planting of trees to be consistent with the immediate environment (not to have palm trees dotted everywhere) and that the age of the trees be at least four years and a minimum height of 2 meters of clean trunk.
• The applicant must bear the responsibility for maintenance for a period of 4 years from the delivery of the project/residence and to that end submit a personal guarantee of EUR 100/tree to be used by the competent authority in case of insufficient maintenance by the initial owner.
• The competent authority should not undertake to pay for the planting and maintenance of trees in public and private green spaces coming from private projects, because from experience we know that they will be abandoned or destroyed due to the indifference of the authority itself. For this reason, the competent authority should collaborate with private service providers which will be contracted for the maintenance and responsibility.
• Where trees cannot be planted, to pay a subsidy into the public “tree planting fund” which, I hope, will be properly utilised and not lost in the state coffers, as happens with the funds collected from parking meters.
• As a rule of thumb, I suggest that one tree be planted per 100 sq.m. building or two trees per 100sq.m. of a sports ground (whichever is more), so a small block of flats should have around six trees. If there is no room to plant trees, then the subsidy of EUR 100 / tree to be paid to the fund.
• The cutting of trees for development purposes to be allowed (or else, the phenomenon of purpose-lit fires in Greece will soon arrive in Cyprus), but must be submitted in parallel with a plan to balance the natural environment, based on the previously mentioned formula and the financial guarantees.
• Authorities that are unable to sustain public and other green spaces can make them available to developers for a period of five years, with a “concession” of 50 sq.m. of building permit for 100 per sq.m. of green, in the form of transferrable building coefficient. Alternatively, the assumption of costs / management to be deductible from municipal taxes – the costs will be the same to the Authority because it will avoid expensive and haphazard maintenance, except that an individual will care much more than the Authority.
• Any citizen to be able to sue the competent authority for non maintenance or absence of green space, where the Authority itself set as a condition for the development. Setting the level of fines to be simple to avoid lengthy procedures, such as EUR 100/sq.m. of garden and the amount to be paid to the State. This will alert the authorities because at present, most public green spaces have become garbage sites, and used by drug addicts and other criminal elements. One example of indifference is what has happened in the last decade along the coastal walkway of Ayia Napa that clearly lacks any maintenance (unlike the one in Paralimni). The aim of these proposals is: • To upgrade the environment by planting large trees rather tiny seedlings that in 80% of cases dry up until the age of 12 months.
• To alert the authorities by removing the collection of fees from citizens who will adopt a green area. • To establish maintenance guarantee fees. • The reflection by of each of us, regardless of quality and construction costs of a project or home, of a tree planting conscience.
• To regulate planting so that it is consistent with the environment and avoid the ugly ‘palm carnival’, as is the case of a grand house in Nisou with a 10,000 sq.m. sports court surrounded by 40 palm trees.
There is a need for imagination on the one hand, and fines of private individuals, developers and local authorities on the other, in order to properly embed in our minds a conscience that the environment is consistent with development.