New urban plan to improve life in Thessaloniki

A regulatory plan was unveiled on Tuesday that would almost quadruple the amount of green space in Thessaloniki and place limits on construction activity in the northern port city as the government attempts to improve its residents? quality of life.

The scheme, presented by Environment Minister Tina Birbili and approved by Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, is an effort to impose some structure on the way Greece?s second-largest city will grow in the years to come while also tackling existing problems such as overcrowding.

?The new regulatory plan is attractive because it is feasible,? said Andreas Kourakis, Thessaloniki?s deputy mayor in charge of architectural planning. ?We are laying down the challenge of realizing these ideas. We have to wait to see if we will have the appropriate planning tools and funds to do so.?

The scheme attempts to incorporate the future expansion of Thessaloniki by covering roughly two-thirds of Central Macedonia, which is almost 19,000 square kilometers in size. The plan, therefore, covers an area three times larger than the scheme developed for Athens a few years ago. It sets out parameters for the safeguarding of ecosystems, the management of water resources and the protection of the Thermaic Gulf from pollution.

In a city with a poor record in terms of green spaces, the plan sets a target of increasing the ratio from 2.73 square meters per resident to 10. Berlin, for example, has a ratio of 13 sq.m. per inhabitant.

One of Thessaloniki?s key problems has been overcrowding in densely populated areas. The program attempts to address this by setting guidelines for construction based on a maximum population of 1.6 million people even though there is enough land to house 2.5 million. The city?s current population is 1.1 million. As part of this drive, it is expected that residents will be given financial incentives to return to central neighborhoods that have been abandoned.

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