NEWS

Developers want forestland

Construction cooperatives called on the government yesterday to deliver on a 40-year-old promise allowing them to build on 10,000 hectares of forestland in a move they argue will help draw foreign investment to the country. Members of the cooperatives said they had agreed with the government before 1975 to build on the land in different parts of the country and accused the state of since going back on its word. «In good faith, construction companies bought property after having obtained from the state permission to build. After this, the government imposed strict bylaws to protect the environment via the 1975 Constitution which reneged the ability to build,» said the Association of Construction Cooperatives yesterday. The property in dispute is considered among the most valuable in the country, located in forestland outside Athens and Thessaloniki. Sources pointed out that the government had made this commitment during the rule of Greece’s military dictatorship. The construction companies also called on the government to stop the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, from blocking its right to build on the land it claims to own. «Control must be wrested from the Council of State, which deems that everything is in violation of the Constitution, so that companies and foreigners can build in Greece,» said the president of the Association of Construction Cooperatives, Dimitris Hadzimichalis. The developers are also requesting the establishment of a new «constitutional» court to examine their land claims. The conservative government has proposed recently the revision of the Constitution in a move that will allow property developers to take over promised forest areas based on aerial photographs taken before 1975. The revision will allow forestland that was cleared before 1975 to be built upon. Environmental groups have criticized the proposed change in the Constitution and said that drawing up a land registry for the areas in question would help to protect the country’s shrinking forest areas.