Turkish State Council cancels Urbanization Ministry’s nation garden project for Atatürk Airport

The Turkish State Council (Danıştay) on Jan. 12 ruled to cancel the “nation garden” tender prepared by the Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change Ministry for the disused Atatürk Airport lot in Istanbul, upon the opposition-run Metropolitan Municipality’s appeal to stop the project.  

Duvar English

The Turkish State Council (Danıştay) on Jan. 12 canceled the “nation garden” project prepared by the Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change Ministry for the area that once housed Turkey’s primary international Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, ruling the tender was not “lawful.”

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality had sued the Ministry and the state-run Turkish Housing Authority (TOKİ) for conducting an illegal tender, as the area fell under the municipality’s jurisdiction, as defined by the Municipal Code.  The municipality asked for the project to be canceled, as it violated the code and the constitution.  

An expert report demanded by the court found that the project did not consider urbanism principles, planning techniques, the needs of the settlement in the future, or public benefit. 

The report also proposed that the airport should serve as Istanbul's disaster and earthquake gathering area in case of a disaster, especially for the expected major earthquake in the megacity.

However, the local appeals court ruled to dismiss the case on September 2023, saying the tender of the project was not unlawful. The municipality decided to appeal to the highest appeals court Danıştay. 

The Atatürk Airport was closed to commercial flights after the opening of Istanbul Airport in 2019. The Urbanization Ministry then moved ahead with plans to transform a large part of the airport area into a “nation garden,” complete with a 2.5-kilometer-long artificial stream. 

Opposition figures have continuously emphasized that the move to close down the Atatürk Airport wasted public resources. The state, for example, paid 390 million euros to the company running the Atatürk Airport as its contract was terminated earlier than scheduled.

The desolate and concrete-laden site seen in the latest photographs of the former airport drew criticism. 

Sports fields and newly planted trees are visible in the nation garden under construction.

Previously, two runways of the airport were demolished and a hospital was constructed on the premises during the Covid-19 pandemic.