The community of Pano Lefkara faces a number of development and local government problems, but the City Council of one of the oldest municipalities hopes that with the support of local citizens, these can be overcome.
Lefkara Mayor Savvas Xenophontos, chaired a gathering at the 'Lefkara' Hotel during which the issues facing the community were discussed.
Multi-purpose Centre: The project began in 2002 with a tender awarded for more than €1.6 million in order to give Pano Lefkara a new lease of life. The district officer of Larnaca was given responsibility for the project. To date more than €2.2m has been spent, yet the ambitious project in the town centre, has not yet been completed because of differences between the construction company and the persons in charge. The City Council has now taken matters into their hands and it is hoped that in three months the centre will be inaugurated.
Central Square: The ambitious project will be completed in three phases. The upgrading of the central square of Lefkara is in the hands of the Planning Department and is estimated to cost over €2m. Plans for the first phase are ready. Under the 2014 budget, the first phase will include the installation of electrical cables which was contributed by the president of the Tourism Development and Promotion Company of Larnaca, Dinos Lefkaritis. The City Council will now have to ensure the necessary loans, guaranteed by the European Union.
Wind Park: Efforts by a private company to create a wind park between Lefkara and Skarinou, with the support of the Municipality of Lefkara have run up against environmental regulations which are delaying the project.
Normally the project should have been finished in February 2012 with the signing of an agreement by then Interior Minister, Eleni Mavrou but paperwork overturned the process.
The location of the project is included in the European environmental programme Natura 2000 [Special Protection Area] but the installation of 26 wind turbines in the programme was suspended. The 15 wind turbines are within the Natura 2000 project.
Agora Hotel: Pano Lefkara's modern Boutique Hotel "Agora" unfortunately closed before its 20th anniversary and is now deserted. It was built in 1994 on church land and was initially the old Municipal Market. Mistaken decisions led to the closure of a hotel which is much needed in the historical town, said the mayor.
The managing company and the owner, which is Trimothountas Bishopric and the Church of Lefkara, are now moving ahead with the disposal/sale of the hotel while at the same time seeking to recover the equipment.
Local Plan: The local plan of 2003 could not be implemented due to 43 complaints received from affected parties who want to make use of their property in the residential area of the town.
Efforts are underway to draw up a new Local Plan which will take complaints into account.
Abandoned properties: A total of 112 abandoned properties, post 1963-4 have been recorded around Pano Lefkara. In collaboration with Guardian for Abandoned Property, a pilot programme will be implemented to manage all of these properties in order to deal with the problem.
Tourism: Concerted efforts are underway by Lefkara Municipality to upgrade the tourism product of the village, including traditional lace making and jewellery making and to promote civil marriage ceremonies.
Wedding ceremonies for young couples from Israel and Russia have opened new prospects and there is hope to develop this kind of tourism.
Continued efforts with the CTO, the Association of Travel - Tourism operators, the Tourism Development and Promotion Company are being made and the Larnaca Municipality has proceeded to create a map of the heart of Lefkara, installing special signs in six different places. Close to 150 English tour operators, amongst others, have been hosted in the village, while an international cycling race with broad participation is being organised. In March the Lefkara Handicraft Centre is expected to be completed which will be an important contribution to the improvement of the local tourism product.
Koshi: The unbearable cost of the Household Waste Management Unit at Koshi is also affecting Pano Lefkara. Although rubbish is being transferred to the station in Skarinou, the costs per tonne based on the unit operation agreement in Koshi is detrimental to the cities and towns of Larnaca as well as Famagusta and Lefkara. The only encouraging element which has emerged was the reduction of Value Added Tax charge per tonne.
Policing: The institution of communal policing has had very good results for the town which in the past had seen several cases of burglaries and thefts. Now, 46 residents have taken it into their hands to help the local police but as the person in charge in the Municipal Council, Savvas Leonidou mentioned, more help is needed.
Reforestation: Lefkara Municipality attaches great importance to reforestation of land, particularly towards Vavatsinia. As stated by Municipal Counsellor, Giorgos Kortaris, over 500 trees have been planted in recent years and the effort will continue.
Restructuring: As in more than 30 municipalities in Cyprus, Lefkara has started restructuring services in an attempt to reduce the cost of its services for its citizens. A related bill is expected to be tabled in the House of Representatives by the Ministry of Interior in June or at the latest in September.
The bill may decide to combine the Municipality of Lefkara with seven communities in the mountainous region of Larnaca.
Currently there has been a reduction of the Mayor's fees by 25% and staff by 15-20%. The collection of rubbish has been reduced to five times per week, total of 20 times a month.
Lefkara today: The historic town now hosts 762 residents and twice that on weekends and especially in summer.
The annual budget is €820,000 but the government grant to municipalities has been reduced by 45%.