Wrecking ball aimed at illegal buildings?

Just three weeks after passing a law allowing the owners of illegal homes to protect their properties from demolition in return for a hefty fee, the government is preparing to start knocking down 100 illicit buildings a month.

Sources at the Environment Ministry told Skai TV that local authorities have already sent it lists containing some 2,500 homes that have been built in protected areas. It is the government?s intention to target these properties rather than just ones that have been built without permits. Sources said large luxury residences would be the first to be knocked down and that authorities would not seek to demolish smaller homes that are families? only abode.

While regional authorities in the Peloponnese, on the Ionian islands and in western Greece have responded promptly to the ministry?s call to identify homes erected in protected areas and to issue demolition notices for them, officials in Attica have been less compliant, sources said.

Environment Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou is said to want the demolitions to begin in November but this appears to be an ambitious goal given that the department created two years ago to carry out such tasks has not been given any equipment, funding or new staff.

The law on illegal buildings passed on September 7 allows homeowners to buy a demolition amnesty for 30 years. Papaconstantinou received some criticism for the legislation as opponents claimed that it was simply a revenue-raising measure for the cash-strapped government.

However, in a bid to deflect this criticism, Papaconstantinou insisted that the government would be unswerving in its commitment to knocking down illegal buildings.