The Administrative Court in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Bourgas handed down a judgment on February 14 opening the way for a construction project halted amid the “Dunegate” controversy two years ago – and the following morning workers were on site, clearing the ground for building.
The “Dunegate” controversy held the headlines for weeks in early 2012 when media reports said that ground-clearing for construction in a sensitive coastal dune area was underway. The reports followed complaints by environmental conservation NGOs.
The controversy led to dismissals of senior officials and an intervention by the then-government to halt the project.
But on February 14, the Administrative Court said that it found that the construction permit issued to the company had been cancelled by the regional construction inspectorate without reason. Revoking the cancellation of the permit, the court ordered the construction inspectorate to pay court and administrative costs.
While it was not immediately clear whether the court decision was sufficient in itself for the construction that had so outraged environmental conservation groups two years ago to proceed, the following morning – a Saturday – saw work resumed at the site.
The construction team mobilised quickly, according to a report by local television station bTV, embarking on ground-clearing to make way for a large holiday complex.
Preliminary work was proceeding in spite of the fact that amendments to the law on dune areas at Bulgaria’s Black Sea, approved after the “Dunegate” scandal broke, made construction on dune areas illegal, the report said.
At the same time, according to the Bourgas environmental inspectorate, the ban did not apply to already issued building permits, bTV said.
The report said that about 20 workers who arrived at the site reinforced a fence around it and started clearing vegetation. There were closed-circuit television surveillance cameras at the site, which local reports said had been put up because of timber theft.
The “Dunegate” episode had further political ramifications when the government for which the Bulgarian Socialist Party holds the mandate was formed in May 2013. Initially, architect Kalin Tiholov was to be appointed as a minister, but there were immediate protests by the public because of his role in designing the detailed plan for the construction project at the Nessebur dunes. Tiholov’s nomination was reversed.
(Photo: Bin im Garten)