Giant ‘green resort’ set for Crete

British investors presented plans yesterday for a vast, all-season resort on the Greek island of Crete, describing it as a model of environmently friendly development and among the biggest investments ever on Greek soil. The project, which includes golf courses, is to be built on land leased from a monastery. «This is a resort with a difference,» said Christopher Egleton, chairman of developers Minoan Group Plc, presenting the scheme covering 2,500 hectares (6,175 acres). «There’s nothing like it anywhere in Europe, and I believe in the United States,» he told a news conference in Athens. The project, costing -1.2 billion ($1.6 billion), comprises six stone villages in the traditional Greek style offering five-star accommodation for 7,000 people in Cavo Sidero, a rural coastal area of eastern Crete. Partially operational from 2009, the resort will feature a conference center, sports facilities and golf courses whose water supply will be ensured by an on-site desalination facility, planners said. «This is one of the greatest projects ever carried out in Greece,» said Tourism Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia. «There will be complete respect to the environment and careful management of the local ecosystem,» she added. Built on land leased for 80 years from a local monastery, Moni Toplou, the «Cavo Sidero» project will occupy land protected under the Natura 2000 European network of key natural habitats. Greek environmental groups oppose the creation of golf courses which require huge amounts of water for maintenance. Many parts of Greece suffer frequently from drought. United Nations environmental experts have expressed doubts about desalination, as the disposal of the salt can cause further damage to the marine environment. But Minoan Group says it will work closely with Forum for the Future, a British charity specializing in sustainable development, to protect the land and local fauna. «This is an area quite degraded from overgrazing,» Peter Madden, Forum for the Future’s chief executive, told AFP. Construction is scheduled to begin in May. The resort is expected to be fully operational by 2017, said the planners, who originally won an international tender for the project in 1995. (AFP)