Probe into army camp ‘homes’

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered an urgent investigation into complaints by environmental groups and local authorities that 36 residential properties are being constructed on the site of the Saketa military camp on Mount Hymettus, which is located in a zone where building is not permitted. The probe, prompted by press coverage of the construction activity, will be carried out by court of first instance prosecutor Nikos Ornerakis. Nikos Hardalias, the mayor of Vyronas, an eastern Athens district near the army camp, yesterday filed a suit against «anyone responsible,» demanding that the building of the 36 maisonettes stop immediately. However, speaking to Skai Radio, Deputy Defense Minister Costas Tassoulas suggested that a law passed in 1987 allows the army to issue building licenses for construction that is vital to its operational needs. It is not clear, however, if this legislation allows the army to also contravene zoning regulations. It is likely that the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, will be called on to resolve the matter. Mayor Hardalias, who is also the head of the Association for the Protection and Development of Hymettus, had previously failed with appeals to prosecutors to stop the activity at the Saketa camp. «We lost precious time but, when we realized what was going on, we were not able to do anything as every legal effort we made came up against a brick wall,» said the Vyronas mayor. According to Hardalias, the construction of the maisonettes on a plot of some 2,000 square meters was launched without a proper license, as forestry authorities cannot issue permits for building in the protected area. He called the construction «an insult to the hundreds of volunteer firefighters who struggle every day to protect the forest.» However, Tassoulas insisted that rather than maisonettes, the army is constructing «36 rooms in two complexes that are being lined up for operational needs at a site that houses a motor pool and fuel reserves.»