Council of State halts work on the Syngrou Estate after local protests

A temporary halt has been called to plans for construction work on the 90-hectare Syngrou Estate and budgeted at 4.65 million euros. The projects, part of a program contract between the surrounding municipalities of Maroussi, Kifissia, Melissia and the estate’s administrators, the Institute for Agronomic Sciences (IGE), were judged as doing nothing to preserve the natural habitat of the estate. The Council of State’s summer session’s ruling for the stay on construction is valid until the hearing of a suit by local groups – Friends of the Syngrou Estate, Kifissia Protection Society and Amarousi Citizens’ Intervention – to have the plans canceled outright. According to the program contract, 4.65 million euros, of which 1.2 million are to come from the Agriculture Ministry, are earmarked for repairing buildings on the site – many of which are illegally built – improvements to roads, the creation of an artificial lake and botanical gardens. Only 8.5 percent of the total funding is set aside for the forest itself. According to the Friends of the Syngrou Forest, this distribution of funds is typical, as the structures do nothing for the forest itself. Even creating gardens, they say, is an extremely expensive solution, given the huge funds required for their upkeep. «Since the Agriculture Ministry has promised to provide 1.2 million euros, bids should be called and the money be used to renovate the listed buildings on the estate, that is, the church of Aghios Andreas and the Syngrou Villa,» say the Friends of the Syngrou Forest. On July 15, an Athens court approved a restraining order against an initiative by the municipality of Maroussi to rent the neighboring 12.8-hectare Karella Estate to an investor who wanted to build a theme park that would attract about 1 million visitors annually. Six days later, a fire broke out on the site, giving rise to concern among local residents and raising a number of questions.