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Why has the Korivos centre shut down?

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Reading through the announcements regarding the closure of Korivos Commercial Centre, both by the Municipality of Paphos and the owners, leaves many questions that need answers.

Based on the announcements, I found this case strange, to say the least, for such a large centre to face closure by the municipality, both in terms of the fundamentals and the timing, seeing as the Christmas shopping period is just around the corner.

The municipality said the project has a different layout than the plans that had been approved, and the altered layout does not include the extensions of the building development.

The owners claim that they secured a planning permit for the alterations and obtained the approval of the Council of Ministers for the purpose.

The municipality refused to grant the permit since the project has not secured a certificate of approval (to be issued by the municipality). The owners have appealed against this municipal decision since December 2018.

The department store said it was licensed and had been operating since 2001 without any problems. And a cabinet decision of December 2018 authorises the Paphos municipality to issue an amended town planning permit to the Korivos Commercial Centre to operate as a department store.

Notwithstanding the Council of Ministers’ approval, the municipality turned down the project’s application appeal, for which the owners applied yet again, and the case is still pending.

For such a project to shut down, it should be viewed from the criteria of safety to the public and the employees.

From what I can understand, these “minor” alterations should not warrant closing the ERA Korivos department store and firing around 200 employees.

Or letting them go during the Christmas period that cost the government thousands in unemployment benefits when finding staff for such positions is difficult.

Buildings should be erected based on the permits issued, but then, why is the municipality so adamant in its position, especially when it refused to abide by the Council of Ministers’ decision since December 2018?

Who is to blame for such a delay?

It is a fact that no building can be occupied without the certificate of approval and the local courts enforce it, but let’s look at the general situation prevailing in the Cyprus property market.

Approximately 80% of the buildings, either with a title or not, do not have such a certificate, and as such, they cannot be occupied, let, or exploited for the owner’s benefit.

Based on our experience, hotels, entertainment projects, homes, etc., have minor alterations and deviations.

I wonder why such a strict measure is imposed in this case by the Paphos municipality that refuses to follow the instructions of the government Planning Office and the Council of Ministers.

This is not a normal procedure, but I wonder whether there is an approach of double standards for projects considering the circumstances.

The owners may take legal action against the municipality based on this factor alone.

We seem to live in two different worlds. The opposite one is Paralimni municipality, which is involved in all sorts of permitting procedures (even silently), but if need be, it provides permits with lightning speed (see Nava case).

Because I find the Korivos case strange, there must be something behind the scenes that has not surfaced yet.

Some rumours suggest personal differences which do not necessarily have to do with the dispute in question.

I hope this is not the case and feel that if this is allowed to escalate, Paphos municipality may face hefty penalties or damages towards the owners.

A much-needed compromise is required, which should include the municipality’s response to the Council of Ministers’ approval, the temporary extensions for a cover permit, for the owners to abide by the original permit and a time limit to execution of, say, 60 days.

For those who may think that the lack of a certificate of approval is a major issue, I say yes.

But the non-issue of such a certificate may refer to minor alterations not necessarily of substance.