Sifnos calls for ban on cave houses, pools

Island leading the way in the Cycladic chain calling for stricter construction protocols

Sifnos calls for ban on cave houses, pools

Expressing its deep concern “about the destruction of its cultural heritage,” the Municipality of Sifnos has become the first in the Cyclades island chain to ask the state to stop the construction of cave houses, ban private swimming pools and enforce stricter measures to protect it from dizzying tourist development.

It sent its appeal a few days ago to three ministries (Environment, Culture and Shipping), the town planning authority on neighboring Milos, which has jurisdiction over Sifnos, and the bodies that advise on building permits (Syros Architecture Council, Architectural Committee of the Municipality of Sifnos).

“In a landscape constantly changing due to the frenetic ‘development,’ which has been the result of the intense tourist wave of the last few years, the only salvation is protection measures and their safeguarding by the competent authorities and services,” it said. “A brake is desperately needed on all impending disasters and deterioration,” it stressed, while also seeking a ban on permits in off-plan areas except for ground-floor buildings.

It specifically noted four practices as destructive: These include the licensing of cave houses and the construction of buildings with uncoated stones, which they said is altering the island’s morphology and its particular architectural physiognomy – “an element of great cultural, environmental and economic value, since it constitutes a reference point for the tourist promotion of our island.”

“The licensing of stone buildings, which try to imitate the old farmhouses, only succeeds in giving birth to villas that alter the image of Sifnos,” it declared.

They also singled out the licensing of swimming pools in residential areas, “which exacerbates the problem of water scarcity,” while also referring to the adverse impact that the approval of permits near monuments has. The alteration of paths, “which is an alteration to the morphology of the island,” was also cited as particularly destructive. 

Tellingly, the Cyclades Architects Association has since last year bemoaned the destruction that is taking place in the Cyclades because of the cave houses, which were allowed outside Santorini with a 2012 building regulation.

It said that the result produced by this legislation appears mostly negative and damaging to the environment, with the main features being oversized buildings on slopes, which require significant excavations – i.e. irreversible interventions. 

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