BUSINESS

Elliniko still not out of the woods

NIKOS ROUSSANOGLOU

TAGS: Privatizations

The 37,000 square meters characterized as “forest” by the Piraeus Forestry Authority may turn out to be the Achilles’ heel of the 8-billion-euro investment in the development of the old Athens airport plot at Elliniko, according to the chairman of contractor Lamda Development, Anastasios Giannitsis.

Addressing the listed construction firm’s annual general meeting on Thursday, Giannitsis expressed optimism that the issue will have a positive outcome, as Lamda has already filed for the annulment of the decision that deems part of the plot to be forestland.

However, judging by the words of the Lamda executives, it appeared that if the decision is not reversed there will be serious issues regarding the future of the investment. That is because the area where those 37,000 sq.m. are situated has crucially been set aside for the creation of an international hotel resort with a casino, with a total capacity of 1,200 rooms, that cannot be shifted to another spot. “This is no Legoland,” chief executive Odisseas Athanassiou stated.

He added that “forestland is an area developed by natural ways – yet those trees were planted by a girls’ college located in that area at the time. Therefore this is not a forest, but rather an artificial plantation, with the State Legal Council already having issued its verdict two months ago.”

A statement by State Minister Alekos Flambouraris later in the day following Lamda’s submission of the Integrated Development Plan illustrated the lack of communication between the government and the project’s investors: According to Flambouraris, the matter of the forest plot has been resolved through the transfer of the 37,000 sq.m. to the 2.3-square kilometer metropolitan park that will be created as an offsetting measure for the loss of green spaces due to the construction of the casino complex.

As Lamda and state sell-off fund TAIPED officials implied on Thursday, that solution is no more than an informal idea that has been expressed in talks on the subject rather than a formal government proposal. They added that they are expecting the outcome of the objection raised to the Piraeus Forestry decision.

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