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Closure of state bodies to hit urban planning, say experts

Experts expressed dismay on Thursday at the government’s decisions to shut down organizations responsible for urban planning in Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as another public body that is overseeing the creation of pedestrian routes linking the Greek capital’s archaeological sites.

The government presented legislation for public consultation on Wednesday that foresees the closure of 21 state organizations. Those include the Organization for Planning and Environmental Protection of Athens, also known as the Organization of Athens, and the equivalent body in Thessaloniki, which were established in 1985. “The decision to close the two organizations is a huge leap backward, to a time when each municipality in Athens did whatever it wanted without taking their neighbors into account,” a former president of the Organization of Athens, current National Technical University of Athens professor Yiannis Polyzos, told Kathimerini.

At its peak, the Organization of Athens employed 70 people but today it has just five staff members.

The government also wants to close the state-run Unification of Archaeological Sites (EAHA) organization, which was responsible for creating walkways in Athens. Its projects include the pedestrianization of the streets around the Acropolis, considered one of the most significant works to have taken place in the Greek capital in recent decades.

“I respect the political decisions, even though I disagree,” said EAHA chief Dora Galani. “I just hope that most of the staff are kept on in some way so the expertise that has been gained is not lost.”

EAHA employs less than 20 people and just two months ago was granted 1.5 million euros from the government’s Green Fund to carry out its latest projects. EAHA recently completed a study for the pedestrianization of Vassilisis Olgas Street and the regeneration of Theatrou Square in downtown Athens.

ekathimerini.com , Thursday Jan 16, 2014 (22:00)  
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