The sense of developing and implementing a CDS in the city of Larnaca

Larnaca is one of the oldest cities of Cyprus and is located in the south-east part of the island, situated at the crossroads of three continents in the eastern Mediterranean basin.  It is the main city of Larnaca district, the third largest region of ​​Cyprus in area and population.  The region has an area of ​​1.393 square kilometres, or 15% of the total area of the island. The total population of Larnaca district is approximately 146.000, or 17% of the total population of Cyprus.  The population of the urban area is approximately 86,000, or 10% of the total population of the island.  Despite the fact that the city can easily combine the mystique of the old era and the freshness of modern life, rushed interventions made to the city fabric throughout the years, and especially after the Turkish invasion in 1974 when an influx of refugees pressed for the creation of more housing units, gave the city a character of irregularity and discontinuity.

Larnaka, in recent years has gone into a new development period with the construction of the new terminal building at the international Airport, which is now a vital hub in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Furthermore, the modern national and urban roads and the planned development in the Port and Marina have formed a new impetus to the development of the city and strengthen the agglomeration of Larnaca as the main gateway to Cyprus and connective node of the country with the rest of the world.  For this reason in September of 2012 Larnaca city has initiated to set its urban sustainable development strategy (USUDS), based on the active participation of the community.

During the final phase of the USUDS Programme, Larnaca elaborated on the results of the diagnostic analysis using the method of SWOT analysis. The results were then summarised into five groups and the basic needs to develop a UDS were identified.

For its essential infrastructure and accessibility, the city identified that there was inadequate port and marina infrastructure, the road servicing Larnaca - Dhekelia tourist area, and the one connecting the southern coastline were inadequate, and that secondary roads and public transportation were in their majority downgraded.

For social infrastructure and demography, the city recognised that there was lack of infrastructure for social welfare, as well as inadequacy in university infrastructure. Also, provisions for persons with disabilities throughout the city were insufficient. The population was ageing, and there was an inability to attract urban population. In addition the population composition within the city centre was changing rapidly, with foreign nationals to be increasing at a higher rate than locals. Moreover, there was difficulty in integrating foreign nationals into the society.  The city also identified that there was rampant garbage disposal in undeveloped plots, and an inability to keep public spaces clean.  And finally, health care within neighbourhoods was absent.

For its economic environment, Larnaca acknowledged that it did not have a distinct economic base, and that the city's investment in research and technology, as well as the yield of the secondary export sector were very low. In addition, it was recognised that the city's weak business culture lead to unemployment and reduced opportunities for work.  The city was not producing sufficiently to meet its needs and that there was lack of production in the manufacture of chemical and pharmaceutical products, which could be exported abroad, thus providing employment and revenue for the city.  In the tourist sector, Larnaca had the lowest percentage in the distribution of tourist beds nationwide compared to other coastal areas and it had a low occupancy rate in tourist accommodation.

For its Natural and Built Environment, the city identified aesthetical degradation of its Urban core to a great extent, fragmented waterfront, coastal erosion and atmospheric pollution, pressures on the environment and specifically the saltlakes' ecosystem. The siting of the petroleum refinery area, and storage tanks on the waterfront, as well as other incompatible land uses within the city posed a huge setback in the development of the area.  Furthermore, there was inadequacy in the creation and maintenance of public parks, absence of landmarks, and a poor network of walkways, bike lanes and parking spaces.

For its History and Culture, Larnaca recognised that listed buildings and ancient monuments had been abandoned, and that there was minimum maintenance, promotion and enhancement of archaeological sites, which both lead to low interest in visiting archaeological sites.  In addition, there were pressures on the environment within the areas of special character. It also identified that there were too many artistic events and only a few cultural events, and thus a need for enrichment and promotion of museums and cultural sites.

The strategic plan for sustainable development for Larnaca aims to provide a creative challenge that will serve as the core for the composition and coordination of all efforts among development actors such as the Government, Municipalities and communities of the Larnaca District, Public bodies, and the inhabitants of the city for the continuous improvement of living conditions, employment and economic development.

Two Steering Committee Meetings, with broad participation, with all parties exchanging opinions led to the formation of the vision of Larnaca, and then to a series of workshops between the Municipal and Local Teams for the setting out of the Strategic Plan, which consisted of specific projects.  When the process was completed, the new vision for the city and the strategic projects were presented at numerous sessions in which small groups of various stakeholders such as Municipal counsellors, politicians, Mayors of the Larnaca district, and city organisations were invited.

During this basic design framework, the General Secretary of the USUDS program, Joan Parpal and his associates had an invaluable contribution. Furthermore, the intervention of the international expert, Prof. Josep Acebillo was very decisive and reinforced the process significantly.

Unfortunately the country's economic crisis of 2013 was very criticaland changed most characteristics of the city, which were directly related to the economy. However, even if the data from the department of Statistics, which had been collected during the last census of 2011 and used during the diagnostic phase became outdated and obsolete, both the Municipal and the Local teams decided to use those records as a base for the study due to the assurance of the government regarding the return to stable economic conditions in the next 2-3 years. 

The UDS process facilitated the formation of a clear vision for the city of Larnaca, which now has a new vision on which it can invest for a sustainable future.

A key parameter in relation to the feasibility of the action plan cannot be other than its gradual implementation, which can be done through detailed schedule and planning. It is essential to make the necessary interventions, redesign and corrective actions, whenever required, since the dependence of the works to exogenous factors, affect its implementation.

Another factor affecting the implementation of the Action plan would be political commitment towards implementation of the Action Plan and the final materialization of the vision of the city.