The irregularities observed within Akamas' protected area, as highlighted in last Sunday's report by "K," appear to be just one aspect of a broader issue emerging in anticipation of the implementation of the local plan in September. The evidence presented by "K" regarding interventions in protected areas indicates a series of peculiar activities in the region, particularly related to the purchase and sale of land, some of which involve corporate entities focusing on land development. Information obtained by "K" reveals an unusual and intriguing surge in land transactions over the past three years, involving both regular commercial deals and bank sales, with at least one case known to "K."
However, what raises suspicions and concerns is the timing of these activities, which seems to coincide with the completion of the legislative reform for local government. As local stakeholders around Akamas and within the land market speculate, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the growing interest in the Akamas area is linked to the anticipated changes brought about by the new local government. Particularly, concerns are being voiced regarding the new planning regulations that will come into effect in the summer of 2024, shifting the authority from central government to provincial councils. This development potentially creates opportunities for exemptions or deviations from standard regulations.
A well-known land developer in Paphos purchased a large plot of land in Akamas through an auction nine months ago, according to local authorities.
Based on the available and reliable data accessed by "K," the past three years have witnessed an increased interest in Akamas' areas, openly associated with the anticipated changes and prospects stemming from the implementation of the Akamas local plan. Similar to the situation with the emergence of "illegal" houses, there is a widespread perception among locals that certain individuals are rushing to acquire land, driven by the economic benefits associated with the area's future prospects. The provided table demonstrates that between May 2020 and May 2023, a total of 573 land sale and purchase transactions occurred in three communities within the region. This figure carries significance, considering the overall land area in the region, as noted by local stakeholders who spoke with "K." Even during the period of the health crisis when public activities were significantly reduced, the sales data and documents filed with the Land Registry indicate 163 transactions within a year. Over the subsequent two years, land purchases became more predominant. In total, between May 2020 and May 2023, there were 573 transactions within the administrative boundaries of Ineia, Kathika, and Neo Horio municipalities.
However, the exact nature of the land sold remains unclear and could potentially provide a clearer understanding of the transaction characteristics. Specifically, it is uncertain whether these transactions involve large plots of land, which would indicate purchases and sales by land development companies.
One of the recent activities involves a plot of land the size of 100 'skales'. Based on the information obtained by "K," this particular land was acquired by a prominent land developer who operates in Paphos. The land had previously belonged to a well-known family and was used as collateral for bank loans. When the repayment of these loans became problematic, the bank seized the collateral. Consequently, the land parcel was put up for auction and subsequently purchased by the aforementioned businessman. Situated on the outskirts of the Peyia municipality, the parcel lies between Avakas and Toxeftra, falling within the Natura plan area.
Interior Minister Konstantinos Ioannou responded to the recent "K" report that aired on Sunday. Following a briefing from the Department of Urban Planning, Mr. Ioannou ordered an inspection of Akamas to detect any illegal interventions. In an interview with K, Mr. Ioannou announced that starting next week, the Planning Department, in collaboration with the Press and Information Office, will conduct aerial inspections using drones in the Greater Akamas area. If any illegalities are identified, officials from the Planning Department will carry out on-site inspections. If the illegality is confirmed, legal action will be pursued, similar to the two cases reported since 2020 and an additional case that has recently been discovered.
Mr. Ioannou further stated that in the event of court decisions convicting the offenders, orders for the demolition of illegal buildings or additions will be requested. Regarding the buildings that were highlighted in the "K" report, which have emerged within Akamas, the only reaction thus far has come from the community leader of Ineia, Yiango Tsiviko. In a telephone conversation, he denied the occurrence of any sales, claiming that he would have been the first to know if they had taken place. However, his denial contradicts the data presented by "K," which indicates that 77 sales have indeed been recorded within the boundaries of the Ineia community since 2020.
Furthermore, the report presented evidence of the construction of buildings within Akamas that clearly do not serve as livestock housing (styadias). "K" highlighted eight specific cases, supported by satellite photos, to illustrate these violations.
[This article was first published on Kathimerini's printed Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]