Mayors ask for changes in draft law on building in Natura areas

Greece?s mayors have fixed their attention on a draft law drawn up by the Environment Ministry for the protection of biodiversity, which received a less-than-enthusiastic welcome in Parliament on Tuesday, January 18.

The Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) has so far agreed in principle with the bill, although it has asked the ministry to modify the terms regarding areas that are protected under the European Union?s Natura 2000 network.

The request refers to the most contentious part of the draft law, which increases the minimum area of land in a protected area that someone would need to own before building from 0.4 hectares to 1 hectare; this was the part of the draft that caused the biggest reactions from Greece?s MPs. ?The issue is not over the 0.4 or 1 hectares, but the need for regulations to be finalized so that we can maintain the social balance,? said KEDKE in a statement on Wednesday, adding that such a big change in regulation will simply cause more problems instead of promoting ecologically friendly building practices.

Giorgos Kotronias, the union?s committee chief for sustainable development and the environment, argues that local authorities have already allowed construction on bigger plots, despite pressure and reactions, where there was good reason. What KEDKE is ultimately suggesting is that the draft law allow requests to build on Natura-protected land to be examined on a case-by-case basis and to be either rejected or allowed by presidential decree, depending on the particular circumstances of each application.

Of the 325 municipalities in Greece, just 62 do not have a Natura-protected area within their boundaries. The issue does not just affect the islands, which are almost all under the Natural umbrella 100 percent, but also many parts of mainland Greece, such as, for example, the Municipality of Drama (of which 60 percent is protected), Kesariani (60.6 percent), Ioannina (70.2 percent) and Kalambaka (63 percent).