Five-star hotel project in idyllic ancient city halted by court
Located on the shores of the Mediterranean west of Antalya, the ancient city of Phaselis draws hundreds of tourists every year.A local Turkish court has halted the construction of a five-star hotel complex next to Phaselis, one of the best preserved ancient cities located on a cove along the Mediterranean Sea, marking a new victory for activists in their latest battle against investors seeking to expand their businesses in areas with protected status.
Lawyers representing local activists said the 2nd Administrative Court of Antalya, which oversaw the case, had requested the elaboration of an environmental impact assessment report (ÇED) to determine the potential damages of the facility to its surroundings.
The hotel, named “Dream of Phaselis” and slated to have 288 rooms, would have been built on the limits of the Olimpos National Park, while a significant part of the facility would be inside a first-degree archaeological site, where no construction is allowed under current legislation.
Local officials from the Environment Ministry, who are responsible for approving such projects, had decided not to demand an impact assessment report from investors after reviewing their application.
The controversial practice has become common and in many cases across the country. Especially when projects involve the construction of energy facilities, the Environment Ministry has often choosen to bypass the mandatory assessment reports.
“According to the court’s ruling, the company now must prepare a ÇED report. We are very happy to have saved Phaselis at this stage. Now we will give the struggle to prevent the construction of the hotel to the new process,” said Baran Bozoğlu, the head of the Chamber of Environment Engineers .
Locals, NGOs and business associations had long expressed their opposition to the project, stressing that the ancient city is one of the country’s most important archaeological sites and deserves to enter UNESCO’s world heritage list.
The owner of the project is Rixos, a hotel chain known for its closeness to the government and which recently won a contentious tender for the Golden Horn port in Istanbul.
“We are inviting the investor company to abandon this project that will damage both nature and history, as well as the Environment Ministry not to approve any ÇED report. We expect the Environment Ministry to adopt a mindset for the protection of the environment,” Bozoğlu said.
Phaselis has become a symbolic battle at a time when hotel investments along Turkey’s western coasts have dramatically increased. Activists have not only criticized the damage to natural areas, but also slammed the privatization of beaches and coastal areas that had previously been open to the public for years.