NEWS

Hymettus construction put on hold

All forms of construction on Mount Hymettus, east of Athens, were yesterday suspended until 2011 as the government prepared a new bill that would place tighter restrictions on building activity in the area. The Environment Ministry issued a statement yesterday saying that it has extended a temporary ban on construction, which was first put in place by the previous New Democracy government in 2008. ND was forced to act when one of its ministers violated building regulations to build a luxury house in a suburb of Athens located at the foot of Mount Hymettus. The law has repeatedly been flouted on the mountain despite calls from environmental organizations, residents and local officials in the city’s eastern suburbs to declare the area a national park. PASOK intends to address this issue in a bill that is currently being drawn up. However, sources said that government officials feel that the mountain does not have the ecological characteristics that would allow it to be made into a national park, which in turn would make illegal any commercial or construction activity. Nevertheless, the Environment Ministry is considering limiting the opportunities to build on Hymettus. Sources said the bill, which is due to be tabled in Parliament next month, will extend Zone A on the mountain, where no construction is permitted. Hymettus has been split into two zones since 1978. The previous government failed to clamp down on illegal construction within Zone A. Last September, the Council of State had to intervene after it was revealed that 36 residential properties had been constructed within a military camp on the mountain. The court rejected the argument that building activity within a military zone was exempt from the zoning law and ordered the construction to stop immediately.