Building allowed in protected area on Halkidiki coast

Construction will be able to take place on a beach in Katerini, northern Greece, the government decided on Thursday despite the European Commission chiding Athens two years ago over damage to the environment caused by building activity in the area.

According to a decision taken on Thursday by Alternate Environment Minister Nikos Tagaras, a 400-hectare area of land near Korinos beach in Pieria will be declassified and no longer be considered a protected area despite the fact that it includes a wetland and is considered a refuge for wild animals.

“This decision is unacceptable,” Themis Kouimtzis, the head of the Axios Delta National Park Management Authority, told Kathimerini. “The authority’s executive board has unanimously decided that there should be no construction activity in an area that is a refuge for wild animals. This declassification leaves us exposed vis-a-vis the European Commission.”

In 2011, authorities began constructing roads in the area but opponents to the development forced the work to stop. Brussels also intervened, asking for clarifications on the issue from the Greek government and then instructing it to restore the damage done by the illegal construction of the roads.

Thursday’s decision came as five environmental organizations threatened legal action against Greece’s privatization fund, TAIPED, for allowing the company that recently bought Sahara beach in Nea Propontida, Halkidiki, from the government to allegedly break the law.

The groups claim that the new owner has dammed a stream, exceeded the permissible area for beach umbrellas and been awarded a construction permit without submitting the necessary paperwork.