IN THE second of a series of four articles on the Cyprus Interior Ministry’s bulletin outlining the key features of the recently approved planning amnesty bills, we are publishing the provisions of the Town and Country (Amended) Law 2011.
Subsequent articles will contain the key features of the Streets and Buildings Regulation (Amended) Law 2011 and the Immovable Property (Tenure, Registration and Valuation) (Amended) Law 2011.
The town and country planning law
- The validity period of a planning permit is set by a condition attached to the permit and depends on the nature and scale of the approved development. If such a condition is not imposed, the planning permit is valid for a period of three years.
- The validity of a planning permit can be extended for time periods considered by the Planning Authority as justified, depending on the nature and the scale of the development, provided that there have been no amendments to the provisions of the Development Plan, which are relevant to the development under consideration. The same applies where the implementation of the development has progressed to an extent that can be considered as irreversible.
- A planning permit is automatically extended for one year, if a relevant application submitted to that effect is not decided.
- The total validity period of a planning permit (including all extensions granted) should not exceed 8 years for one residential unit or change of use. For developments of a larger scale, this period may be up to 12 or 18 years, depending on the type and nature of the development.
- These amendments will significantly reduce bureaucratic and administrative procedures, as well as the respective burden on Authorities and citizens and businesses alike.
- Temporary provisions aim at enabling the legalising of irregularities of a certain scale and significance on buildings that existed on April 8, 2011, provided that a planning permit and/ or building permit had been granted in the past. The law defines what is considered as an «existing building» and it is important that this definition is carefully studied (article 45A, paragraph (1) of the amending Law).
- Temporary provisions can be applied even if the planning permit and/ or building permit have expired. This specific provision is of significance for the benefit of the applicant.
- The scale and significance of the irregularities that can be legalised are defined by the provisions of the law. Not any irregularity, irrespective of its scale, can be legalised. In general, it is possible for the following irregularities to be legalised (these are generally of a larger scale than the respective ones that can be legalised through the provisions of the Streets and Buildings Regulation Law):
(a) Existing additions or alterations to an existing building resulting in:
(i) Increase of the approved plot ratio (of the building or the individual units) up to 30% of the approved covered area, of which only 10% could be allocated outside the approved shell of the building. This 10% (outside the approved shell of the building) refers to the sum of all additions and not specifically to any individual unit exclusively.
(ii) Increase in the height, number of storeys (floors) or the coverage ratio of the building.
(iii) Differences in the approved general layout of the development.
(iv) Failure to comply with the minimum required distances from the property boundaries or between buildings.
(b) Change of use of existing small-scale development, provided that the new use is more desirable than the existing and it does not adversely affect to a considerable extent the amenities of the area.
(c) Reduction in the surface and the dimensions of existing plots, up to 20% of the surface area deriving from the designated plot ratio.
(d) Failure to complete part of the approved development (building or division of land) or incorrect infrastructure construction with respect to the permit´s terms and conditions or non-compliance with the permit´s conditions related to the provision of public infrastructure or non-compliance with the permit´s terms and conditions regarding the provision of suitable and adequate parking spaces (up to 10% of the number of parking spaces approved).
- The Law does not apply where any existing development was granted a planning permit through departure from the provisions of the Development Plan, under article 26 of the Town and Country Planning Law.
- Under the temporary provisions of the Law, an application, can be submitted either by the holder of the original permit, or, if this person is unwilling or reluctant to cooperate, any interested party with respect to the development.
- Temporary provisions apply to residential/second-home developments, tourist complexes, commercial developments (up to 1000 sq.m.), mixed residential/second-home and commercial developments (where the predominant element of the development is the residential use), and to building plots (produced through the division of land). Legislation does not apply to developments other than the above. The legalisation of irregularities in such developments may be sought, only, through the process of applying for a planning permit through departure from the provisions of the Development Plan, under article 26 of the Law.
- A prerequisite for the application of the temporary provisions of the Law is that the possession, use and enjoyment of each individual separate unit (in building complexes or apartment blocks) are fully secured, and that there is no significant adverse effect on the amenities of neighbouring/ surrounding properties and uses.
- The Law defines obligations regarding the notification of applications for the legalisation of irregularities. It also provides for the right of neighbours to submit their views or objections with respect to the application, and requires the Planning Authority to publish relevant decisions.
- The Law defines a six-month period from April 8, 2011 for the submission of a statement of intent by owners of buildings with irregularities. Such a statement can be submitted by purchasers of individual property units (second homes or apartments) where the owner himself is not willing to do so.
- This statement is simple, and is submitted to the Ministry of the Interior. It contains general information that is necessary so as to ensure that the irregularities existed on April 8, 2011, and is attested by an affidavit provided by a qualified person, member of the Scientific and Technical Chamber of Cyprus (ETEK).
- Any person not submitting a statement of intent within the specified period, which expires on October 7, 2011, will not have the right to make use of the temporary provisions of the Legislation. This, of course, does not apply to persons submitting, directly, an application for planning permit (instead of a statement of intent) to the Planning Authority until October 7, 2011, or those who have already submitted an application to the Building Authority for a certificate of approval and have not yet been informed of the Authority´s decision. It should be noted, that the statement of intent must not be confused with the application for planning permit, which is required in all cases.
- A fixed three-year period, expiring on April 7, 2014, is defined, for the submission of applications making use of the temporary provisions of the Legislation, only where a statement of intent has already been submitted in time. Documents and drawings submitted with the application are listed in the relevant application form.
- If the approved surface of a building or unit in a building (e.g. apartment or second home) is exceeded, a compensation levy will be imposed on the owner or purchaser, which will be equivalent to the market value of the area in excess. These values will be determined on the basis of general estimates carried out by the Department of Land and Surveys, which will be published by an Order of the Minister of the Interior. It will be also possible to compensate for these values through the transfer of development rights from listed buildings or other private property.
- A 20% discount on the compensation levy is set for all applications submitted within the first year period, and a 10% discount for applications submitted within the second year of the implementation of the provisions of the law. This arrangement will serve as an incentive for early submissions. No discount will be granted for applications submitted within the third year period.
- All compensation levies will be managed by the Local Authorities and used for projects for the upgrading of the environment in their administrative area.
- In certain cases, additional compensation levies or charges may be imposed, so that any adverse effects caused by the development permitted may be mitigated.
- In cases of developments consisting of a number of units, it is desirable that the statements of intent, or planning applications, are submitted jointly by as many co-owners or purchasers as possible, so that procedures could be sped up.
- In order to discourage future irregularities Planning Authorities have the power to impose administrative fines. Such fines may also be imposed on a planning permit holder not taking the steps required to legalise irregularities.
The contents of this Bulletin do not in any way replace texts of the Town and Country (Amended) Law 2011, the Streets and Buildings Regulation (Amended) Law 2011 and the Immovable Property (Tenure, Registration and Valuation) (Amended) Law 2011. In case of contradiction between the contents of the Bulletin and these Laws, legislation takes precedence over this text.