Turkey's highest administrative court, the Council of State, has canceled a tender for the construction of a national park in place of Istanbul's former main airport, years after its partial demolition and the construction work in the area begins, daily Szc reported on Monday. .
Atatrk Airport was the main airport in Istanbul before the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) decided to build a third airport in the city. It was closed on April 7, 2019, with the opening of the largest airport in Istanbul, worth $12 billion, but with much controversy.
Later, the government decided to build a pandemic hospital in part of the old airport, destroying two runways, earning widespread criticism for damaging a fully operational airport.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan had also announced that a garden, which he called the Garden of Nations, would be built in its place as part of a project financed by the Turkish Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and of Climate Change.
The tender to transform part of the airport into a national park was held in April 2022. The tender, worth TL 2.1 billion, was awarded to the construction company Yap Yap. Demolition of the runways had begun before the tender contract was signed, sparking public criticism. Despite all objections, construction began in May 2022.
At the current stage, the construction of basketball courts, tennis courts as well as a mosque and its complex on the runways of the airport grounds is nearing completion, according to Szc.
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (BB), the main opposition party led by the Republican People's Party (CHP), has launched legal action against the Turkish national housing authority, TOK, and the Ministry of Environment, requesting the cancellation of the tender in April 2022. The lawsuit, filed with the Ankara 16th Administrative Court, was dismissed in September 2023.
Concluding the BB's appeal, the 13th chamber of the Council of State annulled the decision of the administrative court and unanimously decided to cancel the call for tenders.
Stating that the condition of urgency is sought in tenders conducted in this way, the chamber stressed that the condition of urgency was not met because there were no unforeseen circumstances or specific technical characteristics in the construction process.
The chamber added that the call for tenders, announced as part of the Action Plan for the first 100 days presented to the public by the Presidency of the Republic, cannot be justified as an urgent task only due to the nature of its declaration within the framework of the program.
The municipality also filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Urban Planning, allocating 2.8 million square meters of the airport's 7.2 million square meters for the construction of the park. A recent expert report highlighted that the decision to build the park in place of the airport proved to be incompatible with urban planning principles. The report also draws attention to the lack of consideration for public welfare and insufficient consideration of the critical role that Atatrk Airport would assume in the event of a potential disaster.
The so-called national gardens are built as part of a project launched by President Erdoan in 2018.
Opposition figures have repeatedly said that the decision to close Atatrk Airport was wasting a huge amount of public resources.
Opponents also criticized the location of the new airport, close to the Black Sea coast and 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the city center, exposing it to fog and high winds.
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