Judges halt construction in forest

Just a few days after the Council of State allowed the construction of 36 residential properties to continue in a military zone on Mount Hymettus, an official from another department of the same court yesterday ordered the temporary suspension of the project, approving an appeal lodged by 15 local mayors. The ruling is a temporary one and will apply until a panel of judges rules on whether this suspension on all building activity should remain in place until the first of several appeals against the works is heard. Despite the temporary nature of yesterday’s decision, locals welcomed the order for a suspension to the construction of the maisonettes, destined to be homes for army officers. The mayor of Vyronas, Nikos Hardalias, who has lobbied hard for the protection of the mountain from arsonists and contractors, described the ruling as «the first step in the vindication of the effort of 15 municipalities to protect Mount Hymettus.» According to Hardalias, yesterday’s decision by the Council of State, which is the country’s highest administrative court, was influenced by the statement of a fire service official attributing the outbreak of a blaze on the mountain slopes on August 17 to ongoing construction activity at the Saketa military camp on Mount Hymettus. Last week’s ruling found that the construction activity under way at the Saketa site was taking place within a military zone and therefore could continue despite the fact that construction is not permitted in the area in which the camp is located. In a related development yesterday a committee working on a new town plan for Athens under the auspices of the Environment and Public Works Ministry approved a new presidential decree that is ostensibly aimed at protecting Mount Hymettus from development but which critics say will leave it open to further exploitation by contractors. The committee’s decision is subject to approval by the Council of State.