End of illegal complex Golden Pearl, but WWF warns of more pressure on Bulgaria’s protected areas

Posted on 20 April 2012

WWF has welcomed the demolition of controversial holiday village Golden Pearl built illegally on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast in the heart of Strandzha Nature Park, but has warned that the problem with construction in this and other protected areas in Bulgaria continues.
Sofia, Bulgaria - WWF has welcomed the demolition of controversial holiday village Golden Pearl built illegally on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast in the heart of Strandzha Nature Park, but has warned that the problems with construction in this and other protected areas in Bulgaria continue.

“The act of demolition of Golden Pearl is a huge success, an affirmation that civil society in Bulgaria can make a difference and that the country’s greatest natural treasures are worth protecting at all cost” said Vesselina Kavrakova, Programme Manager of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme in Bulgaria.

“I hope that today’s demolition sends a strong signal and marks a precedent for Strandzha Nature Park as well as other protected areas that are still threatened by development. The Golden Pearl resort is just one example of how the entire Black Sea coast in Bulgaria has suffered because of huge pressure from developers”.

Construction of the luxury resort Golden Pearl, which started in 2006, was illegal from the beginning with no environmental impact assessment carried out. However, a territorial plan for the area which was declared invalid by the Supreme Administrative Court, may still come into force. Commissioned by the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, the plan would allow for big scale coastal construction in Strandzha Nature Park. The Supreme Administrative Court’s decision is currently being appealed.

WWF warns that pressure from developers has now extended to Bulgaria’s mountains also. Two of Bulgaria’s iconic protected areas - Pirin National Park and Vitosha Nature Park are under threat from illegal construciton of ski runs and facilities.

Recently proposed changes to Bulgaria's Forest Act, which have already been approved by the Bulgarian government and are now being considered by the Bulgarian Parliament, will facilitate the emergence of many resorts like the Golden Pearl complex in Bulgaria’s protected areas. The proposed changes would allow for the construction of ski runs, ski lifts and practically all other types of buildings and infrastructure without changing land use, meaning that forests will remain forests only on paper. Furthermore, they would allow for the cheap acquisition of building rights on public land without tender and for an indefinite period.

A series of protests and rallies organized by citizen groups and NGOs continue to demonstrate massive public support for the protection of Bulgaria’s protected areas.

Strandzha Nature Park and Golden Pearl resort

Established in 1995, Strandzha Nature Park borders the Black Sea and includes unique vegetation and huge oak and beech forests. The nature park is included in the EU’s Natura 2000 network of specially protected sites.

In 2006, a court case to close down Strandzha Nature Park was initiated by Tsarevo Municipality (one of the two municipalities where the park is located) and Krash 2000, the company constructing the Golden Pearl complex.

In June 2007 Strandzha Nature Park was stripped of its protected area status with a decision of the Supreme Administrative Court stating loopholes in a government designation order dating from 1995. That decision paved the way for legalizing the Golden Pearl complex, but also provoked a huge public outcry and daily demonstrations by civic and environmental groups. Weeks later WWF and its partner organizations pushed the Bulgarian Parliament to close the loopholes to address the problem.

According to Bulgarian media, the majority of the 120 houses in the Golden Pearl complex were bought off-plan by British and Irish citizens, who have not received their money back.
boats on rocks
Boats at the Black Sea Coast in Strandzha Nature Park in Bulgaria
© WWF/Michael Gunther
beach and sea
Black Sea coastline in Strandzha Nature Park, Bulgaria
© WWF/Michael Gunther
Advertisement for WWF Protected Areas campaign in Bulgaria. For Sale sign in Strandzha Nature Park, on the Black Sea Coast in Bulgaria, where holiday homes are being constructed illegally.
© Ogilvy & Mather Sofia