Businessmen are reacting to the recent amendment to the Environmental Law which obliges them to carry out Environmental Impact Assessment Studies when constructing high buildings, which up until recently, was not required. They say they are confronted with serious issues that will have a negative impact on the economy of the country, and at the risk of freezing investment. To this end, they are asking for the legislation to be amended and for the Environmental Impact Assessment Study for high buildings not to be required, so that there is no delay in the processing of applications.
As Phileleftheros Newspaper revealed, one of the businessmen has written to the Government, the House of Representatives and organised bodies in the business field. Referring to the recent amendment to the Environmental Law on 31 July 2018, he points out that a very serious problem has arisen in terms of the speedy processing of applications for development. In particular, by assigning the Environmental Impact Assessment Studies to the Environment Department, which is now required for any “high building with a floor number above 2 to the maximum permissible number of floors defined by the Local Planning Authority and Policy Statement”, and given the recent a statement by the Director of the Department of the Environment that, with the existing volume of work, the work time required by the Department to complete them is exceeds a year, “it is understood that this new provision to the law will create an additional workload, with very long delays that will result, essentially, in freezing any development.
Without any doubt, states the letter, will this new state of affairs inevitably lead to irreversible negative consequences for the economy of this country, as well as huge damage to businesses, and as a result will discourage any new developments. “In essence, the above amendment indirectly ends the Motives of the Council of Ministers and puts an end to an important sector that has, in recent years, greatly contributed to the revitalisation of the economy,” it added.
At the same time, the businessman calls on the Government and Parliament, “for the sake of the economy and in order not to freeze of investment”, to ensure that the environmental legislation is amended appropriately, and where necessary, environmental studies should be required solely for projects with a significant impact on the environment and with specific and defined parameters, as is the case in any other EU member state country”. As he states, “I really wonder why we are not taking example from what is happening in other European countries with regards to these issues. On the contrary, with the greatest ease, we are introducing unnecessary restrictions that hinder the development of the country.”
It is noted, however, that the day the House of Parliament gave the green light for a new legislation to accelerate the procedures for assessing environmental impact, the Minister of Agriculture,
Rural Development and Environment, Costas Kadis, was referring to the main variations and improvements of the new legislation. Among other things, he said, “we put new criteria as to whether buildings require environmental impact assessments, ensuring that only projects with significant environmental impact will be subject to a Study thus facilitating the rapid approval of smaller projects with insignificant impact.”
The Commission encourages rationalisation
The Review of the Implementation of the European Union Environmental Law for Cyprus states that “according to a World Bank report, strategic planning and the integration of environmental policies are generally weak points and could be improved. The transposition of the revised Environmental Impact Assessment will be an opportunity to rationalise the regulatory framework on environmental impact assessments. The European Commission encourages the rationalisation of environmental impact assessments in order to avoid duplication of these assessments and accelerate decision-making without compromising the quality of the environmental impact assessment process.
Development with full respect towards the environment
The new legislation ” Environmental Impact Assessment of Certain Projects Act 2018″, which harmonises with the EU Directive 2014/52/EU, modernises the existing legislation that has been in place since 2005 and controls the preparation of environmental studies prior to the construction of projects. The legislation contributes to ensuring a high level of protection to the environment and public health by assessing the environmental impact of public and private projects. Essentially it is ensured that any development will be done with full respect to the environment.
The legislation provides for the simplification and speeding up of project evaluation procedures, makes environmental assessment more effective and ensures the implementation of measures proposed by specialists in order to mitigate the environmental impact of different projects.