Bulgaria high court strikes down amended Pirin National Park plan, Bansko ski lift
A three-judge panel of the Supreme Administrative Court has overturned the Cabinet’s changes to the Pirin National Park management plan, adopted late last year, on the grounds that the government decision was in breach of the country’s environmental protection laws.
The amendments, tabled by the Bansko municipality, were widely seen as opening the way for the construction of a second ski lift in the Bulgarian winter resort and were approved by the government at its last meeting in 2017.
An appeal was lodged by environmental protection groups and activists against the Cabinet decision, claiming that it breached procedural regulations and the environmental protection laws.
The judges agreed, rejecting the Cabinet’s arguments that the changes to the Pirin national park management plan did not require an environmental impact assessment. The government decision breached the protected territories, biological diversity and environmental protection acts, the ruling said.
For years, the issue of the second lift in Bansko has pitted the municipality and local residents, who have lobbied in favour, against environmental protection groups, who fear that any changes would lead to over-development of the Pirin mountain range, a Unesco world heritage site.
The latest proposals last year rehashed the same debate, with the government seeking to allay the fears by saying that the tourist area, which includes the skiing slopes above Bansko, only covered two per cent of the Pirin National Park.
At the time the Pirin national park management plan was amended, the Cabinet said that Environment Minister Neno Dimov was to “undertake urgent measures to prepare an environmental review, in line with current legislation” in case there was investor interest to build a new cableway in the Bansko area.
The court’s decision can be appealed within 14 days. If the cabinet does so, the ruling would be examined by a five-judge panel of the Supreme Administrative Court.
(Bulgaria’s winter resort of Bansko. Photo: banskoblog.com)