Berlusconi's villa escapes Sardinia's building ban

The new president of Sardinia offered his gleaming tourist island the smack of firm government this week, enacting a freeze on construction that will halt almost all building within two kilometres of the sea, to preserve the island's beauty.

The island to which Tony and Cherie Blair fly next Monday as guests of the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, at his extravagant villa, has had a boom in haphazard tourist development along its exquisite coastline in the past 10 months, as a result of a planning vacuum.

A regional court struck down 13 out of 14 of the island's local plans last October. With no overall, island-wide regulations in place, developers and local councils rushed to launch new developments to draw more tourist revenue, Sardinia's main industry for decades. Mr Berlusconi's Villa Certosa, where the Blairs will stay, has seven swimming pools and a plantation of exotic cacti among many other delights, and extends to the shoreline of the Costa Smeralda, the island's most expensive stretch of coast.

When construction crews moved into the villa's grounds this summer to build a pseudo-ancient Greek auditorium and a tunnel enabling access to the estate directly from the sea, opposition politicians erupted angrily in parliament, saying the work was being done without planning consents.

A lawyer for Mr Berlusconi said correct procedures had been followed, and the secrecy was justified on grounds of national security. Mr Berlusconi has entertained dignitaries at the villa, even singing his own Neapolitan-style songs accompanied by his private guitarist.

The island's president, Renato Soru, told journalists in the provincial capital, Cagliari: "We have an idea of sustainable tourism for Sardinia, and we have taken the first steps towards attaining it. Tourism is not the same thing as construction, but rather a careful use of environmental resources, and it must be evaluated not so much for the quantity of structures that get built as for the impact on the economy as a whole."

The decree will be in force for three months and may be renewed only once, for a similar period. But Mr Soru is determined that a fully fledged plan for the whole island - enshrining the 2km limit - will be in force before it expires.

Howls of protest have come from some mayors. The mayor of Villanova Monteleone, on the north-west coast, called the decree "a mortal blow to the Sardinian economy", and demanded its suspension and replacement by consultation with local bodies.

Now, a powerful American landowner on the Costa Smeralda, Tom Barrack, who had formerly indicated his approval of the 2km limit, abruptly changed his tune. "I will not invest even one lira in Sardinia," he was reported as saying by Corriere della Sera newspaper. "I will put my capital in other Mediterranean coastlines."

* A group claiming links to al-Qa'ida threatened Italy on an Islamist website, saying: "This is the last warning to the Italian people. Either get rid of the unqualified Berlusconi or we will burn Italy. The next message will be what you see on your land, not on the internet."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea