Eight years after the signing of a bilateral Arrangement between Cyprus and the UK, the SBA is today lifting restrictions on property development on 200 square kilometers of non-military areas within the bases.
In a press release, the President’s press office said this was a “historic” day for residents and property owners and paves the way for significant economic, tourist and commercial prospects in municipalities and communities that fall within the Bases.
The area of land freed from the provisions of the 1960 agreements can in fact be considered as the prelude to the territorial status of the British Bases in a solution to the Cyprus problem.
The implementation of the agreement is in fact the biggest land-use change that has taken place in the history of the Republic of Cyprus, with strong implications on political and economic levels. The signing of the Agreement to release areas for development took place in London on January 15, 2014, by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulidis and the UK, William Hague, in the presence of the President of the Republic, Nikos Anastasiadis.
The bilateral settlement, as the agreements were called, essentially lifts development restrictions and allows the owners to either sell, pass the land to heirs or develop it based on Cyprus development guidelines similar to those in force in areas controlled by the Cyprus Government.
A ceremony marking the implementation of the agreement will take place at the Presidential Palace today, May 9th.
The Settlement Agreement can not be considered a return of territory to the Republic of Cyprus, however, it is in fact considered essentially that in the long run. The area of land freed from the provisions of the 1960 agreements can in fact be considered as the prelude to the territorial status of the British Bases in a solution to the Cyprus problem. An issue that seems to have been raised during the meeting that Nicos Anastasiadis had at Downing Street, on January 15, 2014, with the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron. In this light, the Agreement is characterized as historic, since sixty years after the founding of the Republic of Cyprus, a general arrangement was reached for the development of civilian areas within the British Bases. Currently, the significant benefits are limited to the residents and landowners of the areas being released. Based on data from Urban Planning, the Agreement affects 4 Municipalities and 23 communities in the areas of the Bases.
The agreement between the Cyprus Government and the UK does not change the territorial status of the British Bases but will bring about significant changes, with state services of the Republic exercising power in a number of administrative matters such as the development of areas but also the change of ownership. The provisions of the Agreement, according to Urban Planning data, affect 200 of the 250 square kilometers of British Base territory. Out of the agreement will remain 50 square kilometers of land that will be used for military purposes. In addition to the urban planning issues, there are provisions related to issues of jurisdiction, criminal and civil justice and cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus and the British Bases.
Of the 200 square kilometers (20,000 hectares) of land included in the Agreement, about 1,800 hectares of land are being released for development purposes (860 in Akrotiri, 930 in Dhekelia). As of May 16, these areas are essentially part of Development Zones (residential, tourist, commercial, industrial). In practice, this means that affected landowners will be able to develop their property under the same regime as the rest of the population. In other words, permits required for the construction of a residence or for investment purposes will be issued by the competent bodies and departments of the Republic of Cyprus under the formal condition of the Bases, mainly for issues related to security issues from the military use of other areas.
The second important development is the lifting of the restrictions that have existed since 1960 on the acquisition of land by Cypriot and European citizens as well as citizens of third countries. This means that existing landowners will be able to sell their property, transfer it to relatives or rent it to third parties, a development that clearly makes life easier for those living inside the Bases.
The lifting of restrictions is expected to have a positive impact on the economy of Cyprus along with added benefits for the owners themselves. With the implementation of the new Development Plan, Urban Zones are defined in all civilian areas with the introduction of provisions, for the purpose of serving the needs of housing, trade, tourism, industry, agriculture, nature protection, and so on.
At the same time, the location of schools, clinics and hospitals will be allowed, as well as leisure and entertainment developments, commercial developments and services, in accordance with the provisions and location policies of the new Plan, which largely resemble the corresponding ones applied for areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus.
The procedures for the implementation of the Agreement
From 16 May onwards, Town Planning will publish the maps of the areas included in the Agreement as well as the procedures to be followed by the landowners. The implementation of the Agreement will be made by the publication in the Official Gazette of the Bases, the final policy statement to be delivered to the President of the Republic by the British High Commissioner today, May 9th, which will be essentially the new Development Plan that will govern the development within the areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia Bases. Immediately after, a period of four months begins during which any interested party will be able to submit objections regarding the urban aspects of the Plan. The objections that will be submitted will be examined by a Commission, which when it completes its work, will submit its suggestions to the Commander of the Bases, for a relevant decision and finalization of the Plan. The Base Policy Statement will be reviewed every five years.