Hoping to slam the brakes on a rash of building activity in the Aegean Archipelago by landowners hastening to forestall an anticipated tightening of legislation, the government has ordered a freeze on new construction permits in parts of the Cyclades. The ban will only apply to applications to build in the countryside, outside designated settlements. In response to a request by Andros local authorities, the Environment, Planning and Public Works Ministry has suspended the issuing of all new building permits regarding four parts of Andros that have been designated as areas of particular environmental importance. The decision will apply until July 2004. An estimated 7,000 new building permits are issued every year in the archipelago. The freeze follows a similar decision regarding Myconos, the most savagely developed and overbuilt island in the Aegean, where the ban is expected to last until the beginning of 2005. Ministry sources say the next bans will target Rhodes, Symi, Kea, Ios, Milos, Syros, Santorini and Naxos. The government has pledged to pass stricter legislation regarding construction outside settlements on the islands, for most of which few restrictions are enforced. As a result, landowners have rushed to obtain new permits before the crackdown comes into effect. However, the anticipated bill is expected to ease restrictions lately implemented under presidential decrees drafted by the Aegean Ministry. Last June, Aegean Minister Nikos Sifounakis said «drastic action» is required to protect the islands from unrestricted building activity. A year later, he unveiled proposals for Aegean landlords to voluntarily scale down or even demolish prominent architectural eyesores.