Mayors plan action on Hellenikon

The heads of four local authorities surrounding the site earmarked four years ago to become «Europe’s largest» metropolitan park, yesterday joined forces to express frustration at the government’s refusal to even discuss its plans for the prime location with them. This elicited an icy response from the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works Ministry, which said Minister Giorgos Souflias would meet the with four mayors «whenever his extremely busy schedule permits, and, above all, whenever the time is ripe to discuss the matter.» The ministry statement said Souflias could not possibly meet each of the country’s 1,033 mayors whenever they wanted. «Were that the case, he would have no time for any other ministry matter,» it said. This broadside followed a press conference in which the mayors of Hellenikon, Glyfada, Argyroupolis and Alimos voiced dismay at Souflias’s refusal to discuss plans for the 550-hectare expanse, the site of the former Hellenikon airport. Expressing fears that the minister intended to turn over much of the area to developers, the mayors heralded protests and threatened to seek recourse with the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court. At 4.30 p.m. tomorrow, a protest is to be staged on busy coastal Poseidonos Avenue, which is expected to involve traffic disruptions. In February 2001, the then Socialist government had pledged to turn the old airport into the biggest metropolitan park in Europe. It was announced two years later that up to 150 hectares would be developed to finance the park’s construction and maintenance. The conservative government has said little about its plans for the area since winning last March’s elections, other than Souflias’s suggestion that a new stadium for the country’s richest soccer club, Panathinaikos, could be built there.

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