Bulldozers to move in on villas

Demolition teams will start work today on illegally built sections of seaside villas in southern Attica that infringe on the coast, the government vowed yesterday. This pledge by Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou followed unsuccessful attempts on Monday and Tuesday by Attica regional authority workers to carry out demolition orders on parts of three luxury villas belonging to powerful businessmen in the area of Anavyssos, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Athens. The buildings were saved at the last minute after a Finance Ministry department claimed that the ostensibly illegal sections – walls and outbuildings – were in fact legal. Papandreou admitted yesterday that the civil service had behaved «inconsistently,» adding that regional officials have received orders to go ahead with the demolition today. «The government wants to implement its policy, which is that illegal buildings on the coastline, in forests and in protected areas should be knocked down,» she told journalists after a meeting with Premier Costas Simitis, who is understood to have intervened personally on the matter. Yesterday, the Finance Ministry’s real estate department revoked all its earlier decisions that had called for suspension of the demolition work. The same official who signed yesterday’s decision had signed the suspension orders. Meanwhile, an Athens prosecutor ordered an investigation into the matter. The issue will also come under the scrutiny of the General Inspector for Public Administration, Constantinos Dafermos, who yesterday asked Attica regional authorities for information on what it has done to map illegal buildings and carry out demolitions. Owners of buildings listed for the wrecking ball are expected to appeal to the Council of State.

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