Government interferes in renewal plan despite court ruling

Government interferes in renewal plan despite court ruling

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Government interferes in renewal plan despite court ruling

A number of houses in Balat were renovated to their original styles in 2009. Hürriyet photo

The Turkish Cabinet has moved to immediately nationalize a nearly 280,000 square meter area in Istanbul’s historical Balat neighborhood, despite an Istanbul court’s verdict that cancelled the renewal plan in the district five months ago.

The “urgent nationalization motion” regarding the much-debated urban transformation project in the district was published in the Official Gazette on Oct. 7, following the Cabinet decision.

However, Hilal Küey, a lawyer who has been handling a similar case on the Sulukule urban transformation project, said the motion was unlawful, and that nationalization was only possible “in the event of public emergencies.”

“There is no doubt that the Cabinet’s motion is unlawful. Urgent nationalization can only be declared during states of emergencies, such as a war or a catastrophic situation,” Küey told the Daily News in a phone interview yesterday.

The motion was justified under the auspices of the law on “the transformation of areas at risk of disaster,” despite the Istanbul Fifth Administrative Court’s verdict saying the municipality’s renewal project was “harming the cultural pattern in the region.” The nationalization motion involves exactly the same land that “needs protection,” according to Çiğdem Şahin, spokesperson of FebayDer (the Fener, Balat, Ayvansaray Association).

“This nationalization will affect 5,000 people and will destroy the historic character of Balat,” Şahin said.
FebayDer, which was founded by Balat locals to struggle against the municipality’s renewal plan, will now resort to the Council of State to reverse the motion.

An inhabitant, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had seen that a boutique hotel was planned to be built in place of her house as part of the renewal project.

“My house is a second degree historical building. We restored it 15 years ago and paid thousands of Turkish liras. How dare they rule to demolish it without my approval? I have filed a lawsuit personally and the court ruled in favor of us. We were relieved when the project was cancelled by the court, but now this nationalization has came up,” she told the Daily News yesterday.

Another inhabitant, Mehmet Bayramoğlu, who attended FebayDer’s meeting on Oct. 8, said he had also made restorations in his house years ago worth 250,000 dollars, and that the nationalization motion would substantially damage him.

A number of houses in Balat were faithfully renovated to their original styles as part of a UNESCO project in 2009. However, Turkey’s $400 billion urban transformation project began on Oct. 5, in which more than 6 million houses are planned to be demolished or repaired over the next 20 years.