THE STATE wants to see town planning applications processed within three months the Interior Minister said yesterday in a statement entailing drastic changes for a department that notoriously takes years to answer applications.
Socrates Hasikos said the state did not want to get in the way of major development and considered a three-month timeframe for most town planning applications “doable”.
He was talking in the context of a meeting with dozens of departments and authorities that deal with town planning permission, which are being asked to expedite procedures.
According to the latest report by the Ombudswoman, who investigates grievances by the public against governmental bodies, complaints to do with immovable property and addressed to the land registry, local authorities and the town planning department remain “consistently large”.
A building in Cyprus may be unlicensed for reasons that vary widely in their gravity. For example at least 100 petrol stations in Cyprus are unlicensed with local authorities and municipalities often allowing them to operate without a final approval from the Interior Ministry. The head of the petrol station owners’ association previously told the Cyprus Mail it could take a station three years to get a licence for a window. But a different petrol station might be illegal for failing to meet safety standards and different authorities do not necessarily communicate with each other to tease out the serious issues from the trivial ones.
And the House Environment Committee was yesterday told that 250 out of 600 industrial units that could trade carbon emissions in Cyprus as part of an EU policy on climate change did not actually have town planning permission. The Green Party’s deputy, Giorgos Perdikis, said this had to do with a lack of coordination between different state departments.
“The civil service should be one. [It] should have a horizontal structure and work as a well-wound clock if we are to get out of this financial crisis, or else we’ll end up in square one,” Perdikis said.
Hasikos said yesterday that over 30 different departments may be involved in a single town planning permission, and added he was consulting with all stakeholders as part of a move to encourage development and “change gear in the civil service”.
“What we are attempting today, which will take place with all departments in collaboration with private consultants, is to bring things to a point where the time taken to issue a town planning permission does not go beyond three months,” Hasikos said.
The minister conceded the number of departments involved in issuing town planning permission could be reduced but said this would emerge from a consultation with stakeholders.
The goal is to give relevant departments two months to get the necessary papers to town planning which would then have a month to issue a licence, Hasikos said.
He said that whether people wanted to build a house or a hotel, the state “would not get in the way”.
The town planning department falls under the auspices of the Interior Ministry and is the proper authority for implementing town and country planning law and overseeing housing, planning and development control. It is also the administrative umbrella for local planning authorities.