Archbishop denies bulldozing listed buildings

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Archbishop Chrysostomos II has denied demolishing four listed buildings surrounding the site of a new cathedral under construction in Nicosia which caused a public outcry.

According to letters sent to Nicosia Mayor, Constantinos Yiorkadjis, the Church claimed to have been “simply clearing up the area after one of the houses, damaged by heavy rain, had collapsed”.

The Archbishop said the property had sustained substantial deterioration, and after the bad weather at the weekend, the mudbrick walls absorbed large quantities of water, resulting in a section collapsing with the roof, rendering it “dangerous for public safety”.

In the letters, the Archbishop pledges to restore the houses and denies that he ordered them bulldozed, arguing that the restoration plans for the buildings were underway.

According to permits issued to the Church for the construction of the Apostle Barnabas Cathedral, it is under obligation to restore the four houses.

The sandstone buildings, according to available data, were built in 1927, some of their structure is still standing after the bulldozers went in.

The buildings on Isokratous Street are located on Church-owned land next to the construction of the multi-million cathedral.

Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said the municipality’s chief engineer had sent a letter to the Archbishopric stating that partial demolition of the listed buildings was illegally and as the owners should restore any damage caused.

“The letter also points out that this action violates the conditions under which the permits for the construction of the Cathedral were issued,” said the Mayor.

The Interior Ministry also intervened saying the demolition violated laws to protect cultural heritage.

In a joint announcement with the Town-planning Department, the ministry said that following an investigation of the site, it is “deeply troubled and concerned over the arbitrary and illegal demolition of the Preserved Buildings, owned by the Archbishopric”.

Meanwhile, political parties also criticised the action as “illegal” with ruling DISY tabling a bill to amend the town planning law.

DISY will be proposing amendments to existing legislation on listed buildings as part of the Town and Country Planning Law, to prevent their demolition by introducing hefty fines.

The ruling party is suggesting a minimum fine of €50,000 not exceeding the estimated value of the building, for those demolishing or letting a listed building fall into disrepair.

The bill will be put to the vote next Tuesday.