Auditor General, Odysseas Michaelides, published today his report on the housing developments in the Peyia Sea Caves area.
The matter caused a public uproar as the caves are a breeding area for the world’s rarest pinniped species, the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal — the total population of which is estimated at only 700.
In his report, Michaelides, argues that he observed “weaknesses in the procedures” that were followed to licence the developments.
A summary of some of the report’s points:
- In breach of European Directive and national legislation, a Strategic Environmental Impact Study and a Relevant Impact Assessment Study on the Environment did not preceded the modification of the zones in the area concerned, which is adjacent to the “Natura 2000 “ site.
- Objections were filed and examined out of time.
- The Mayor of Peyia participated in the Appeals Committee. The Committee examined two major complaints submitted by the Municipality of Peyia, which were almost entirely satisfied. We consider that the Mayor’s participation in such decisions violates the principles of impartiality and equality, set out in the 1999 General Administrative Law Principles Act.
- In 2007, a few months before finalizing the 2003 objections, there were three major land sales in the region. After the change of zones, the value of the two pieces increased significantly, with the result that the development companies that acquired them gained significant benefit.
- Changes were made following consultations of the then Director of the Department of Planning and Housing with the Minister of the Interior, without any justification for the reasons, ie the procedure was not done with the required transparency. Also, some of the suggestions of the protest committee were subsequently changed after a meeting of the Director of the Ministry of the Interior with the Minister. The reasons for the changes were not justified and documented in the relevant dossiers.
- A Municipality of Peyia request for the expansion of the Tourist Zone in two specific pieces, was approved. According to the justification this was done to meet the request of a large family to satisfy its housing needs. As we have seen, one piece remains unused, while the family members to whom it has been transferred are owners of a large number of land plots in Limassol and Paphos. The second piece has been divided and sold to various individuals and land development companies.
- There was not adequate justification for the change of status of the area in 2003, from a protected zone to a residential zone.
- The Environmental Authority issued a positive report on three developments in the region without having a properly justified submission by the Environmental Impact Assessment Board before it.