environmental destruction

A 200-space parking lot is planned in a nature reserve in Tihany with secretly allocated state aid

The central parking lot planned next to Tihany ferry station would be built in a forest area, which would require the cutting down several trees. The municipality has received HUF 1.5 billion for the development of the project, which is located in a protected natural reserve of national importance.  According to the preliminary study ordered by the municipality, “no significant environmental impacts are expected”, and the site will be even more “aesthetically pleasing”, while the homes of many species will be destroyed because of the 150-200 parking spaces, the market and the reception building.

Support independent investigative journalism in Hungary, become a patron of Atlatszo on Patreon!

A local resident sent us a document containing the a plan for a central P&R car park for cars and buses next to Tihany ferry station. The construction of the parking lot is linked to a project called Gate of Balaton, which has a target date of 2030.

The car park is planned in a wooded area (source: presentation/Pagony landscape company)

According to the drawings, there would be asphalt paved parking for about 150 cars, and parking lots for 4 buses and 2-3 minibuses.  Two years ago, a local newspaper mentioned an even bigger number, a 300-350-space mega-parking lot.

The forested plot would not only be used for parking, the market would be moved here and new reception buildings would be also built. The name of Pagony Landscape Company afer on the plan sheet, a name that also appears on other priority projects where trees are being removed. They are, for example, designing the vineyard in Buda Castle, which is actually intended to cover an underground car park and which will require dozens of trees to be cut down.

Plan of the car park, market and reception building (source: presentation/Pagony landscape company)

Secretly distributed state aid

The central parking lot has been planned for a long time, but the municipality could not built it from its own money, so they waited for state subsidy, which finally arrived in the favourite village of the Hungarian government elite.

Independent media outlet, 24.hu wrote that in autumn 2020, the village led by the government party, Fidesz received HUF 2.5 billion from the secretly distributed state subsidy from the Hungarian Tourism Agency.

With HUF 1.5 billion, the local government will build a tourist reception building and a parking lot near the lake, carry out environmental remediation, and clean up the harbour area and the coastal forest.

According tot he mayor, there is no alternative

Imre Tósoki has been the mayor of Tihany for 15 years, so we contacted him with our questions concerning the project. He explained that the plan is to cut down only invasive green maples, while „preserving the more valuable vegetation and rehabilitating the green spaces along the waterfront”. But there is a reason to worry when you hear the term „rehabilitation of the waterfront green spaces”  as not so far away from this location, a luxury hotel would be built under the same slogan, disturbing the disturbing the naturally marshy, reedy area just to make it easier for guests  to get down to the shores of Lake Balaton.

We also wanted to know whether there was any alternative location to solve the parking problem. According to Imre Tósoki, there is not, because the Local Building Code allocates the area for the construction of facilities for tourism and sports fields

„As a large part of the peninsula is a nature reserve, it is not possible to designate alternative parking areas on it,” – the mayor pointed out.

It was also revealed that the project is currently in the planning phase, with construction starting in 2022. The environmental impaxt assessment is currently being carried out, and the authorities are in the process of agreeing it. According to the Government Office website the planned investment on the properties is in a protected natural area of national importance and is therefore subject to a prior assessment authorisation procedure.

We also asked if there will be any public consultation on the matter. However, the mayor’s reply did not indicate that residents would have any say in the project, other than being informed, because he only wrote about the fact since 2018, residents have been kept informed of the proposed ideas through several forums.

The wooded plot was rented to build a car park

The development is mainly on two plots, which were merged in June 2021, so that parcel number 1843/6 covers the development area. The local newspaper, Tihanyi Visszhang reported that the municipality has signed a fifty-year lease agreement with Forest Ownership Society (Erdőbirtokossági Társulat). The agreement is an important step towards the creation of a central car park on the area managed by the association.

Out of the total territory, which is 4.2 hectare, 3,3 hectares are wooded.

The current classification of the land is special area-urban recreation centre, which means that currently the maximum buildable area is 15% and the minimum green area is 60%.

The area will be more “aesthetically pleasing” this way

The preliminary study documentation was ordered by the municipality from Juglans Nigra Engineering Office Ltd. The documentation concludes that “no significant environmental impacts are expected from the installation, implementation or abandonment of the proposed facility”.

The document shows that the proposed habitat rehabilitation will affect a total of 2 hectares:

  • Creation of a recreational park with green areas totalling 5700 m2,
  • 6 pavilions with a surface area of 632 m2,
  • P+R parking for 200 cars and 7 buses with a total area of 6400 m2.

According to the study, the area has been spontaneously afforested and neglected, resulting in invasive trees, and is currently almost impassable, so the new built elements will have „a positive landscape and townscape impact.”

Source: presentation, Pagony landscape company

However, the document also makes a few references to the negative impact on wildlife as a result of cutting down trees. As it states „of greatest importance and impact is the conversion of certain habitats, resulting in their partial or total destruction and their replacement by green areas maintained by buildings or horticultural methods.” The area is a habitat for many animals: the list includes 71 species of birds that nest, feed or hide in the forest.

A new district to be built next to the ferry station

“The long-term development programme of our municipality aims at building more large parking lots to eliminate parking problems (…) The aim is to reduce congestion and pollution, noise and dust pollution in the whole municipality, especially in its most valuable historic and tourist areas”- the mayor told our newspaper.

It would seem that the aim of the municipality is to reduce the number of cars, but if we look at recent investments, we can see that other developments are increasing traffic on the peninsula. For example, the municipality sold a nearby wooded plot for 746 million forints, and the mayor even amended the local building regulations to accommodate the luxury hotel with a swimming pool. The plans include more than 5,000 parking spaces for 593 cars.

Right next to the ferry station, new apartments are already on sale, which are scheduled to be handed over in 2022. According to the article of HVG, the apartments are being built by people linked tot he governing party and are helped by the mayor from the same party.

The Castle and Park Hotel will be built a little further away, in one of the most beautiful parts of Tihany, right on the shores of Lake Balaton, next to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Balaton Limnological Institute. Csányi-Hernádi-Garancsi trio are currently building a hotel there, with state funding currently standing at HUF 11.5 billion. Previous plans had envisaged a car park with 150 parking spaces.

In 2016, a €1.65 billion Aquatic Opera Centre was planned for the ferry terminal, which raised serious environmental concerns and would also have generated huge traffic. However, we learn that this plan was scrapped, “mainly for technical reasons”.

Translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, more detailed Hungarian version of this article was written by Szilvia Zsilák and can be found here.

Subscribe to Atlatszo English newsletter

* indicates required

Support independent investigative journalism in Hungary, become a patron of Atlatszo on Patreon!