Bulgaria’s regional development minister promises changes to plan for Strandzha nature park

Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Desislava Terzieva says that she has initiated a process to change controversial plans that pave the way for development in the Strandzha nature park area, while the enviroment minister says that her ministry “will not allow excessive construction” in Strandzha.

This emerged in Parliament on January 31 2014 during a two-hour hearing in which three ministers were challenged by opposition MPs over the plans for Strandzha, which got the go-ahead after the Supreme Administrative Court turned down challenges to the Tsarevo municipality spatial development plan that will make building large-scale resorts in Strandzha possible.

Enviromental conservation NGOs and the public have been outraged by the threat to Strandzha, a relatively unspoilt area on Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, in contrast to the excessive construction of hotels and resorts that has blighted significant parts of the northern coast.

Recent days saw protests in five of Bulgaria’s largest cities against plans for resort developments in Strandzha.

Environment Minister Iskra Mihailova told the National Assembly that the ministry would support the establishment of a management plan or a scheme for the sustainable management of the nature park. Her ministry would not allow “overbuilding”, Mihailova said.

Terzieva told the House that she had ordered the start of a procedure tochange the plans for the Tsarevo region affecting the Strandzha nature park. She said that she had issued this order on January 30.

“The terms of reference for the preparation of a draft amendment to the plan will be finalised by the end of next week and will referred to the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Ministry of Culture for co-ordination,” Terzieva said.

She said that an integral part of this project would be enviromental assesment. The aim was for the amended master plan to meet all the requirements of environmental laws and the requirements for the protection and conservation of Strandhza nature park.

Conservation activists have warned that going ahead with construction plans in Strandzha would put Bulgaria in breach not only of its own laws but also of European Union environmental legislation, in turn putting the country at risk of substantial penalties.

In Parliament, Alexander Nenkov and Liliyana Pavlova, of the centre-right opposition party GERB, said that their main question was why the Environment Ministry had made a surprise move at the end of 2013 by changing the long-standing position against the Tsarevo municipality master plan, to find that it was legal.

Mihailova said that the court ruling allowing the go-ahead of the plan meant that changes to the plan could be made.

In an ironic comment, website Offnews noted, “paradoxically, the words of the minister mean that the ministry has given the green light for construction at the Black Sea in order to subsequently save it”.

Terzieva told Parliament that after the court ruling, she had met with Mihailova and investment planning minister Ivan Danov to outline measures to protect Strandzha nature park. She was confident that the intervention by the state would be sufficient to ward off penalties from the European Commission.

On January 30, Ombudsman Konstantin Penchev said that he had written to Terzieva urging her to consider getting an environment impact assessment of the Tsarevo plan.

The Ombudsman’s Office said that the letter was prompted by numerous complaints it had received and by ongoing protests in many parts of the country against the Tsarevo master plan.

(Photo: Evgeni Dinev)



The Sofia Globe staff

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