Protest against Indiscriminate Building of Hotel in the area of Bodurmese, Bellapais (the vicinity to the south of the Guvence School (the old Ability Education Centre) on the boundary of Ozanköy and Bellapais) will be held on site tomorrow (Saturday the 7th April 2007) at 10.30am when a press release will be issued to the invited press and TV. We urge all TRNC residents/visitors to attend and support the organisers.

Directions to site: travelling East of Girne turn right at Bellapais traffic lights, continue up past Altinkaya and turn left towards Loch Inn (Selim Villas).  Follow the S bend past Lock Inn straight up the hill towards a T junciton.  At the junction turn right and the site if visible from there.

Background: Last week bulldozers indiscriminately cleared a large plot of land at the junction of Bellapais Konaklari and Begonvil Avenue destroying all the plant and wildlife on it.  This area of land is designated as ‘naturalised’ land and thus should not be built upon. 

When enquiries were made, the Authorities were reluctant to divulge any information, to the point that the resident seeking details was warned not to take it further.  However, we have learned that the land has been leased and a large multi-story hotel is to be built on the site, without consideration to the following points:- 

1.  This is a quiet residential area unsuited to commercial use.  All roads in the district are small, built only to serve the local community.  The safety of children will be jeopardised and traffic noise will be inflicted upon everyone – not only during construction but after completion. 

2.  The proposed height of the building exceeds all local guidelines/legislation and will be an eyesore, totally out of character with the surrounding area. 

3.  The residents immediately above the proposed development (approx. 50 houses) were without mains water for 10 months last year, despite being connected to the system.  It is anticipated that supplies will be cut again within the next few weeks. Should this hotel be built it will only exacerbate an already critical situation. We understand that a series of wells will be dug within the complex which in turn will further deplete this very limited resource. 

Incidentally, regular representations made to the Muhtar, the Water Board, the Planning Department and the Ministry of the Interior regarding the proposed connection of the new water depot above Bellapais have been ignored.   It still has to be completed despite promises made two years ago, and we are given conflicting reasons for the delay.   

4.  It is feared that a hotel complex of this size, once occupied, will create even further noise pollution, particularly if there is poolside music, discos etc. 

5.  It will create yet more air pollution from the dust during construction, and we can assume more environmental damage by the dumping of builder’s rubbish. 

To summarise, it would seem that the Government’s reassurances that it would control indiscriminate building and environmental damage are just yet more empty words.  There can be no commercial justification for the building of yet more hotels as there will be no improvement in the tourist trade in the short to middle term, so such a project will not only damage the lives of local residents but also the livelihood of existing hotels and restaurants in the area.  The only conclusion to be drawn is that a few people will benefit financially to the detriment of the rest of the community – and in the long term, the future of the TRNC.

The following is a summary of what has occurred to date: 

Week commencing  26th March: A petition was launched to get as many signatures as possible from local residents, which has now been expanded to anyone who wishes to support our campaign.   At the present time, there are over 50 signatures and we have the overwhelming support of all the local residents that we have been able to contact. 

Further enquiries were made but it has proved difficult to obtain details of the project.

Letters were sent to local Turkish and English language newspapers requesting their support. 

Week commencing 2nd April:

Monday 2nd:  A visit to the Ministry for the Environment was arranged for 10.00am tomorrow (Tuesday), between the Minister, a deputation of residents and also members of local environmental groups.  We also arranged to visit the Planning Department. 

Tuesday 3rd:  A deputation attended as mutually agreed.  The minister arrived one hour late, having spent the time appearing on local television defending his stance and it was reported to us that he criticised and belittled our concerns and accused us of not considering the best interests of the economic development of the KKTC/TRNC…. something we emphatically deny and take exception to.   We believe he also suggested that we were a small minority and that most of the local residents were happy with the project. 

However, BTR TV was also awaiting his arrival and we were given the opportunity to put our point of view to the reporters and cameras both in Turkish and English.   However, we understand that on the Minister’s instructions our comments were pulled from the news item when it was broadcast.  He arrived and refused to see us immediately but agreed to meet the environmental group who made representations on our behalf.

We waited another hour before he agreed to spare ten minutes of his time to hear us.   He was critical that we had involved the press who he claimed, had damaged his credibility.    He also claimed to support the social argument of our campaign but said there was nothing he could do – a contradiction of the alleged comments he made on TV.   He referred us to EVKAF, the trustees of the land. 

We were also refused information at the Planning Office and not permitted to see the plans. 

Wednesday:  A press interview was held on site by EVKAF at 11.00am. which I attended unofficially.  The spokeswoman declined to talk to me but the reporters translated what she was saying…  “They were not breaking the law and all permissions had been granted by the local authorities and the government”.  However, she was not forthcoming as to how the decision to develop the land had been in the public interest… part of their brief, I understand.  I was able to photocopy the artist’s impression of the proposed hotel which whilst it is impressive, is totally unacceptable in this residential environment, dominating the surrounding residential community.   It would appear to be four storeys high but it is not clear how many floors are below ground level or at the rear.  We were assured that there are no plans at present to include a casino or night club, but of course, we have no guarantee that this will not be the case once the premises have been completed. 

In the absence of a Turkish speaking representative, I was again filmed and able to present our case to BRT and Genc TV in English but it is unlikely that it will be shown on BRT if the same censorship is applied. 

My wife was also interviewed on the telephone by your reporter Ian Sheppard.  This was followed up by Ian Pert who photographed a group of residents at the site. 

Michael Haigh, Chairman of the Environmental Liaison Group has also offered his support and through him it may be possible to contact other influential bodies.   We have also received support from the Homebuyers Pressure Group who have had some success representing local residents with their grievances against builders, lawyers and the government.   Our Cypriot neighbours are also making contact with as many people and organisations as possible that hopefully, are supportive of our action.

We had planned to hold a meeting on this evening (5th) to which all interested parties including representatives of the press would be invited to attend.  However, in view of the escalating situation we have postponed this for a couple of days until we have co-ordinated the independent Turkish and British initiatives and agreed our future strategy.

At this time, we will advise you but for the moment we are grateful for all the publicity you are able to give to our cause.