Newsroom / CNA
The Achna local council agreed this week to the construction of a controversial crocodile park, despite admitting that local residents did not have a chance to raise any objection.
The head of the local community, Nicos Vasilas, told CNA that the council had voted in favour of the Israeli-backed project, with his vote and five others essentially giving their consent in the overall process.
“We do not have sole authority to grant permission to the specific company to create a theme park, however we have been told that in case the community is objecting to this, [the company] would not submit the application,” Vasilas said.
The company, TSA Crocopark, reportedly was seeking reassurance from local authorities in Achna that they would not block the project after filing for the permit with the government.
“In case there are objections during the community hearing, the local council will re-examine the matter”
The Cypriot-Israeli project was seeking permits elsewhere in the Republic of Cyprus, but locals in other areas objected very strongly to the project, citing fears for their safety in case crocodiles escaped as well as objecting to an animal farm where crocodiles could end up being bred for their meat and skin.
TSA Crocopark is planning to host about 100-150 crocodiles inside a specially-designed theme park in an area of about 25 square miles (40 sq kilometres). The proposed plan is for the park to be situated on the old Larnaca-Famagusta road between Achna and Vrysoulles.
The debate has been long and protracted with Vasilas visiting last year a similar facility in France, where he said the park was attracting 300,000 visitors annually.
Passing the buck
Vasilas said the local council decided, immediately after the 6-2 vote (and one abstention), to organise an event where members of the Achna community could get detailed information about the project directly from company representatives.
It is not clear how many residents will have a chance to pose specific questions or raise concerns during the hearing on April 27, but Vasilas addressed the issue regarding possible reactions from the community.
“In case there are objections during the community hearing, the local council will re-examine the matter,” he said, adding that “in case that there are no reactions to the creation of the park, then the process for obtaining a town planning and building permit will go forward,” the community leader said.
But no clarification was given whether residents who cannot attend the hearing could still raise objection over the project going forward.
Vasilas said the local council printed leaflets which would be placed in the mail boxes of all Achna residents in order to be notified of the April 27 meeting.
If the plan goes forward, this would be the first crocodile park in Cyprus, where crocs are not native to the island.