Hellinikon is not forest, but could be an archaeological site

Helliniko Airport - The consortium, led by Athens-based Lamda Development, wan an appeal against the Forestry director's decision-via Naftemporiki

Reuters – The Greek government has won an appeal over objections from forestry officials  to the  8 billion euro development of the disused Hellenikon airport site that forms part of its third international bailout terms , overcoming one of the obstacles to turning the former airport site into one of Europe’s biggest coastal resorts.

The project features prominently among privatization targets in the country’s 86 billion euro aid package, the third since the crisis began in 2010.

Greek developer Lamda signed a 99-year lease with the state in 2014 for the 620-hectare (1,530-acre) area, once the site of Athens airport. But the project has faced many bureaucratic delays and objections by environmental pressure groups.

Forestry authorities in May declared 3.7 hectares (9 acres) of the estate as protected woodland, on a spot developers said was integral to the project.

Greece’s privatization agency, which is in charge of concluding the deal with Lamda, appealed the decision. A five-member panel of the country’s forestry department ruled on Monday that the plot was not forest.

“The agency’s appeal … was upheld by a 3-to-2 majority,” the committee’s president, Christos Antonellis, told Reuters, adding that the decision was expected to be published by Wednesday.

The decision is subject to appeal.

Separately, the government’s top advisory body on the protection of antiquities recommended on Tuesday that 30 hectares (74 acres) of the 620-hectare plot under the project be declared an archaeological site, according to sources close to the process.

Tuesday’s ruling requires government ratification. The recommendation is not binding, but the culture ministry always respects the body’s decisions.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is seen as keen to implement the deal to help boost economic activity and reduce unemployment, the euro zone’s highest.

It was not clear to what extent the decision of the council will impact on plans to develop the site.

“It is certainly a bad decision; we just have to wait and see how bad it is,” said  a source close to the investors.