Green area in Istanbul zoned for construction amid objections
ISTANBUL – Doğan News AgencyThe Istanbul municipal council has approved a controversial decision to open a 30,000-square-meter green area by the sea in the city’s Büyükçekmece district to construction, amid objections from three members of the country’s main opposition party and despite prior protests from residents and rights groups.
The Büyükçekmece Municipality, which is run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), had plans to construct a hotel, a residence and a shopping mall in a green area known as Albatros Park located by the Marmara Sea since 2015.
A new plan was brought to the agenda of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality council in June, after being rejected in November 2015, and a majority voted in favor of it.
The plan, which was jointly approved by members of the CHP and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), proposed to increase the housing zone to 60 percent from 40 percent while reducing the tourism zone to 40 percent from 60 percent.
Only three council members, Hüseyin Sağ, Esin Hacıalioğlu and Ferhat Epözdemir – all from the CHP- voted against the plan, creating criticism from among the ranks of the ruling party.
“The groups agreed to approve the plan anonymously before the meeting. Why is there opposition?” asked Temel Başalan, the group deputy chairperson of the AKP, while the CHP said its members were expressing their own opinions.
“We have made a group decision to vote in favor of this plan. There is no controversy. It is the members’ own discretion to vote against it,” CHP group spokesperson Tonguç Çoban clarified.
A prior request to change the zoning of the area came to the agenda of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality on Nov. 19, 2015, but was rejected amid protests from Büyükçekmece residents and rights groups.
In October last year, representatives from the Resist Büyükçekmece Platform, an environmental rights advocacy group, claimed trees had been felled in Albatros Park, which is owned by the municipality.
At the time, members of the platform held a sit-in and erected tents in the park in protest against the construction plan for nearly a month, but were dispersed after police officers and municipal police forces intervened.
A group of around 40 protesters, including representatives of the Istanbul City Defense, the Northern Forests Defense and the Resist Büyükçekmece Platform – all environmental rights groups and non-governmental organizations – also held a demonstration to protest the construction outside the CHP’s Istanbul bureau in the city’s Levent neighborhood on Oct. 7, 2015.
The protest was held outside a local CHP building, as Büyükçekmece Mayor Hasan Akgün was elected from the CHP in the local elections of March this year.
The group called on Akgün to keep Albatros Park a green area.
A number of CHP deputies also joined the demonstrations and supported the protesters in their demands from the mayor.