By Paula Manoli-Gray
If you live in Larnaca, then you will no doubt have come across something in the media (mainstream or social) recently about the promised influx of malls- three to be precise!
It is a topic I have been vocal on in the past, due to my fears that a mall would destroy – what I believe to be – Cyprus’ last real, working town centre.
And whilst I don’t want to labour the point, a multitude of articles on the three projects, coupled with people mentioning them to me, had me once again seeking information on the feasibility of Larnaca becoming a proposed shopping paradise.
In case you have not read the marketing press releases of said malls, the three being hyped are: one on church-owned land near the new stadium, one at the start of the Limassol motorway, and one near the port.
According to the press releases that have been carried in the local media, all three ‘are a given’, with the pieces highlighting all the wonderful features of the shiny concrete boxes, including how many jobs the construction and operation of the malls will create. They even include the completion dates and lovely architectural plans; two have Facebook pages.
The first question you may ask is ‘how have three malls been approved?’ The quick answer to that is they haven’t. In fact, from what I have been told in good faith, only one is in the process of being examined.
The second question you might ask is ‘is it feasible for three malls to be approved in Larnaca?’ This is an interesting one, as the three are all in different municipalities: Larnaca, Aradippou and Livadia, so technically…
The issue that irks me is that the property development companies issue these alluring press releases, which are then reported on, which in turn leads people to believe that they are a done deal.
I believe the aim is to ensure public backing, so that when push comes to shove – and they are indeed examined (and possibly rejected) – public opinion will side with the developers, and Larnaca will be branded as the town that blocks all positive development. The marketers are not daft.
In a twist to the story, I also recently read that the first announced mall (port area) was red-lighted by the Environmental Department due to being in a Seveso Directive danger zone. The Seveso Directive is an EU directive named after a 1976 industrial chemical accident in Milan, Italy. It aims to prevent ‘major industrial accidents involving dangerous chemicals’. This is because of the site’s proximity to the refineries along Dhekelia Road.
Whilst the mall was rejected on safety grounds, the safety of the thousands of people who already live and work in the area doesn’t seem to elicit quite as stringent action, although it was stated that once the refineries have been removed, the mall may be reconsidered.
If I were a betting woman, my money would be on the mall on church-owned land proceeding as priority – for obvious reasons.
As an optimist, I would hope that any decisions that are taken on projects of this magnitude are done logically, and always – and only – for the benefit of the town and its citizens…
… not based on any other factors that would grease the wheels – or someone’s palm.