President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades addresses an event announcing the start of the implementation of the Agreement on the Non-Military Development of the British Sovereign Base Areas

Property development restrictions lifted on UK Bases

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In a landmark move, the British Bases is lifting restrictions on property development within non-military areas, allowing for business and tourism growth stunted for decades.

Nicosia describes the move as ‘historic’ and honours an agreement signed by Cyprus and the UK in 2014.

The new non-military development planning system starts on 16 May, with an avalanche of applications expected.

A joint statement on the arrangement between the Republic of Cyprus and the United Kingdom announced the implementation date on Monday.

“This is an important milestone in the long-standing relationship between the two states, epitomising the partnership, close collaboration and ties we have shared for more than six decades,” the statement said.

“The conclusion of the negotiations, and the end of the environmental consultation phase, signifies the beginning of the implementation of the new ‘non-military development’ regime, a planning system which will allow more development opportunities in the Bases.

The new planning system means lifting many land and property development restrictions within the British Bases.

“Planning zones and policies, similar to those in the Republic of Cyprus, will be applied in the Bases as of 16 May 2022, except in areas related to military and security requirements.

“The rights of all land and property owners will continue to be safeguarded no matter where they reside, and environmentally sensitive areas will be protected.”

Approximately 50% of all land in the Bases are areas of special environmental significance – including the Akrotiri Salt Lake, Lady’s Mile Beach, marshland, and bird nesting sites.

Therefore, they will have strict limits on the types of development that can take place.

From 16 May, property owners will be able to submit planning and building applications under the new regime.

“The implementation of the Arrangement is a demonstration of the commitment of both states to honour their obligations under the Treaty of Establishment and to safeguard the prosperity of the current and future residents, and property owners in general, in the Sovereign Base Areas.”

Announcing the launch at a special event at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Major General Rob Thomson, Administrator of the Bases and Commander British Forces Cyprus, said: “I am delighted that we will soon be able to allow more development opportunities in the Bases while safeguarding the UK’s operational work to enhance both Cypriot and regional security.”

Dependent on environmental and security concerns and the planning zone the property is located in, NMD will allow for a range of development and freedoms, including the Construction of houses, shops, schools, restaurants, and light industrial facilities.

For the first time, third-country nationals, in addition to Cypriot nationals, will be able to own property and reside in or establish and operate a business in the SBAs.

Stephen Lillie, British High Commissioner, said: “The implementation of the non-military development agreement is a huge milestone in our bilateral relationship and will allow development opportunities for thousands of Cypriots living in the Bases.

“I take pride in the fact that we have worked together with our Cypriot friends to deliver a change that will have a real and positive impact on people’s prosperity.”

A statutory objections process will also run for four months after NMD is launched and will provide an opportunity to propose amendments to the new planning system.

The new system also includes legislation and guidance, which will gradually ease establishing a business in the SBAs.

Business Regulations

One of the most important changes in business regulations concerns the eligibility criteria to set up a new business.

Under the new system, a business owner will no longer need to demonstrate local or military needs to establish a business in the SBAs.

Instead, business owners will be able to obtain a business license under a new piece of SBA legislation, due to come into force when NMD is launched.

The ability to regulate a specific business sector through legislation, environmental concerns, the new planning system, and some military considerations will be the main factors that the SBAA will consider when reviewing a business license application.

However, some businesses will still not be able to gain a license when NMD is launched until the SBAA introduces the relevant framework, which it is doing as quickly as possible over the coming years.

The current business license process will remain largely unchanged until the framework comes online.