Famagusta could have its first golf course within three years, as the €100 mln Ayia Napa Forest Golf project is expected to get the green light from environmental authorities after being rejected four times over eco concerns.
Local hoteliers behind the venture feel they are closer than ever as reports say environmental authorities have no objection this time around as public consultations begin.
The golf course is to be built on land owned by the Forestry Department.
In comments to the Financial Mirror Ayia Napa hotelier Christos Kitazos said latest developments indicate that the project will get the all-clear as no authority or stakeholder has posed any objections during the forestry department’s initial contacts.
The development has been denied permission since 1997 and just last year was shot down by the environmental department as the project, based on previous plans, fell within a protected Natura2000 area.
The developers are now trying another area, the fourth over the years, this one located in Paralimni municipality on public land to be leased by the Forestry Department.
“On May 25, the Forestry Department sent a letter to the relevant government departments, asking them for their view regarding the lease of forest land within Paralimni municipality and the application by the company Ayia Napa Forest Golf Ltd,” Kitazos said.
He noted that prior to sending an official letter out, the Forestry Department was in communication with authorities over the project.
“Any objections would have emerged during these consultations.”
Kitazos said the area was one of the two alternative solutions proposed by the government after being rejected by the environmental department in 2019.
The consortium is also encouraged by statements from high ranking government officials made in the past year that this time around the course will take off.
President Nicos Anastasiades in a speech in February 2019 during the inauguration ceremony of the Famagusta Police Department, listed the golf course among the major development projects to be implemented in the area.
The President expressed the hope that “the government will soon be able to announce the construction of a golf course, which will surely be licensed this time”.
Anastasiades said local authorities and the state “will work together to make this project a reality soon”.
Create 500 jobs
Kitazos said that the construction alone would create 500 local jobs.
“While the Famagusta region hosts approximately 40% of foreign tourists and approximately 50% of local visitors, it has the shortest occupancy season, as compared to the all-year destinations such as Limassol and to a lesser extent Paphos.
The Ayia Napa Golf course is to contribute immensely towards extending our short occupancy season as it will be an all-year attraction for foreign and local tourists.”
The company’s plans are mainly based on the Study for the National Tourism Strategy 2030, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Tourism.
One of the priorities given by Cyprus tourism authorities is the promotion of golf, as one of the new types of leisure activity, it hopes to build up.
As stated in the National Tourism Strategy, “the development of golf courses is an effective way to develop the quality of the tourism product.
On February 16, 2005, at a meeting of the Council of Ministers, it was decided to create 14 golf courses in Cyprus, of which 12 would be in Paphos and Limassol, one in Larnaca and one in the region of Famagusta.
Meanwhile, the consortium plans to put Ayia Napa and the wider Famagusta region on the international golfing tournament map.
Kitazos said Ayia Napa Forest Golf is already in contact with one of the world’s largest golf course design companies to create a course of international standards, which will attract not only tourists but professional golfing events.
“The sky’s the limit. Our aim is to build a world-class golf course, which can attract the big names in golf and, why not, put a Cyprus Open tournament on the calendar? This would be an attraction for tourists on its own.”
The local hotelier added that combined with the Ayia Napa and Paralimni Marina projects, the Ayia Napa Forest Golf course will breathe life into the area’s winter tourism.
He said this would greatly benefit local communities, as it would create non-seasonal jobs which are hard to come by in the tourist resort which lives off its summer season.
Apart from creating 500 jobs during the construction period, hundreds of jobs will be created to cover the needs of the golf course and the adjacent hotel.
He added that private plots of land which fall within the area of the course will increase in value with their owners being compensated accordingly.
“At the same time, the value of the neighbouring property will increase significantly.”
Kitazos said he expected the golf course to be completed towards the end of 2023, coinciding with the conclusion of works on the two marina projects.
The area covered by the project, which is outside the “special protection zone”, is expected to be about 771,000 square metres, including the course, residential, commercial, and tourist development.
The consortium says the aim is to develop a golf course with respect to the environment and to contribute to the sustainability of the tourist product, increasing seasonality, which will go a long way in upgrading the area.
The €100 mln project is to include an 18-hole golf course, a clubhouse, tourism and commercial development and a 150-room five-star hotel and other residential developments including villas.
Initial plans included some 188 villas but revised plans, drawn after the latest relocation allow fewer buildings.
“Usually such developments take up around 150,000 square meters. However, as we have limited space to build as part of the area falls in a protected zone, we only have 50,000 square meters available.”
Currently, there are four golf courses fully operational in Cyprus, all in the Paphos district (two in Kouklia, one in Paphos and one in Tsada).