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Balconies without a view

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Limassol avoided a tragedy this week when a pedestrian, hearing the loud noise from a balcony breaking off a condemned building, jumped away in time and narrowly escaped with scratches and light injuries.

This is not the first time chunks of poorly-built buildings are falling off.

An old house, which should have been abandoned, collapsed in Aradippou last year, with the initial excuse provided by local authorities in both cases being “because of heavy rainfall”.

How pathetic. One can only imagine what excuse would be provided or the ensuing blame game if we had victims in either case or other similar incidences in the past.

Half of Limassol is built on poor foundations, in many cases a rush job to accommodate the demand from Famagusta refugees who fled the Turkish invasion in 1974, followed by the thousands of Lebanese who escaped their civil war to resettle on this island.

Once the Lebanese realised that they were being robbed, either through exorbitant rents and ridiculous property prices, or the overcharging by lawyers, accountants, and other service providers, they soon left our shores, never to return.

Limassol was lucky to enjoy the influx of Russians from the first wave of post-Soviet collapse, then the Yugoslavs after their country broke apart, and a decade ago from the second wave of Russians.

And all this time, Limassol started getting more overcrowded, local authorities turned a blind eye to unplanned development, streets became narrower, and neighbourhoods were now claustrophobic.

The regeneration of the Old Port area and the entire promenade, up to the Amathus-St Raphael area, was a step in the right direction.

But greed got in the way again, and high-rises have mushroomed, with the Green Party screaming that the impact on natural underground water flows and the sewerage system would be too much to bear.

On the western part of town, rapid development is also underway, this time in a rush to build projects adjacent to the casino resort, itself built on swampland and the flies and bugs are still a permanent part of the area.

Where condemned buildings are not being repaired, they should be torn down, turned into pockets of greenery and the bill sent to the landlords (who are the ones who pocketed wealth from the misfortunes of others).

Apart from the Athalassa Forest, the capital Nicosia has no other green areas with clean air, despite the occasional mini-park dotted around town.

Paphos is getting prettier and cleaner, and sustainability seems to be a high priority, which is why it attracts quality tourists, year after year, who appreciate the town’s metamorphosis.

Suppose nothing else is done to stop the uncontrolled development and clean it up.

In that case, Limassol will very soon become an uninhabitable port town, with the extremes of luxury buildings and dilapidated ones within the same block.

Rents keep rising because the administration does not have the political will to end this abuse, driving many borderline households into poverty.

Whatever happened to the ‘social’ aspect of the passports-for-gold scheme that the government was so proud of?

Why has urban planning and affordable housing been forgotten just because this scheme was abandoned?