New law to expand land use

A draft presidential decree prepared by the Environment Ministry anticipates looser land use restrictions for Greece?s residential areas, which could result in cemeteries, prisons and waste management plants being built inside protected areas.

The proposed changes, which were unveiled on Tuesday by Deputy Environment Minister Nikos Sifounakis, are to be debated during the holiday season.

The new legislation is also designed to lift certain existing building restrictions, mainly pertaining to the size of structures.

In its present form, the decree expands the range of land use descriptions for mostly residential areas, which make up the majority of Greece?s urban centers.

Interested parties will now be free to build superstores, shopping malls, medical centers (equipped with up to 100 beds), and auto repair shops. Hotels, as well as education and medical centers, will be allowed to exceed the current building restrictions.

In a move likely to ignite controversy among green activists and local communities, the draft presidential decree green-lights the construction of restaurants in communal green spaces and the installment of waste management plants, biological cleaning units and power stations within urban and suburban green areas. The construction of waste management plants and prison centers will, under certain conditions, now also be made possible within protected areas such as forestland and archaeological sites.

At the same time, the measures made public on Tuesday are designed to better safeguard so-called ?purely residential? areas. These are not, in fact, residence-only areas, but allow for small businesses aimed at serving everyday needs.

However, the decree introduces a new designation for so-called ?garden cities,? such as the upmarket Filothei and Palaio Psychico suburbs north of the center, which are to be classified as ?exclusively residential areas.?

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