24 builders claim Mt Pendeli

Twenty-four building cooperatives are seeking to build on parts of forestland on Mount Pendeli, north of Athens, that were burnt in fires over the summer, according to sources. Some 940 hectares of forest surrounding residential areas on Mount Pendeli were burnt in August during one of the country’s worst summers on record in terms of brush fires. Construction groups claim to be the legal owners of 1,100 hectares in the area that many of them have bought from the Pendeli Monastery. The transactions, however, seem to be based on gray legal areas, as doubts exits as to whether the monastery had the right to sell the property. «During the period 1970-1976, Pendeli Monastery, which claims to be the owner of the land, sold hundreds of lots – each 1,000 square meters – to building cooperatives and private owners,» said Dimitris Stergiou, the mayor of Palaia Pendeli. «They are now appearing today with contracts for the heart of Pendeli,» he said. According to sources, the monastery is claiming ownership of the land; however, the relevant paperwork was burnt in a blaze that took place more than 130 years ago in 1872. A lack of official maps or a state land register is adding to confusion over the ownership issues. The government has yet to protect the areas by legally labeling them as reforestation districts, raising concerns among residents that homes will be built upon the areas valued at about 1 million euros per 1,000 square meters. Stergiou also said that he is determined to see the area replanted even if it involves court battles with landowners. According to Greek law, even privately owned forest areas need to be replanted if burnt down.