NEWS

The four attempts that failed

First attempt: In most European countries, the need for land use planning emerged right after World War II. In Greece, it was not until the 1960s and 1970s that some surveys were made, but they were not given legal status, explained Dimitris Economou. «The first Greek law on zoning was Law 360/76 which provided for a national land use plan, regional plans and special plans for specific sectors. But it was never enacted and was quickly forgotten.» On the basis of that law, the then Coordination Ministry issued some decisions regarding the development of «rival» cities to Athens, such as Larissa-Volos, Iraklion and Kavala, according to Yiannakourou. «However, these were not zoning plans in the strictest sense, but something like town plans.» Second attempt: A 19-volume national zoning plan assigned to the Doxiadis design team was submitted in the early 1980s, but never instituted. «I think there were two reasons for this,» said Economou. «The philosophy of the Doxiadis plan was not politically acceptable at the time, for example, the major transportation infrastructure. The plan called for the airport at Spata and the Athens metro, but (then Environment Minister Antonis) Tritsis thought it was better to have smaller, separate projects.» Policy differences were not the only reason. «If that was all, it would have been easy enough to amend the law. The real problem was that Greek society was not yet mature enough. A national zoning plan raises restrictions to land use,» said Katsiyiannis. «In Greece, 85 percent of the population owns land, which would have meant major losses.» Third attempt: The next failed attempt was in 1984. The then Ministry for Town Planning and the Environment commissioned land use plans for the prefectures (apart from Attica), explained Economou. «None of them was ever instituted because of opposition from the other ministries that felt the plans put restrictions on them,» he said. At about the same time, special land use studies were commissioned. «However, these were not the same as those in Law 360/76, that is, a strategic plan for each sector of activity. They were small-scale plans aimed at defining land use in specific areas. In the end, only a few of these were enacted, such as the one for the island of Paros,» he added. Change of climate Two parallel developments in the early 1990s revived the need for land use plans. In the European Union, there was a need for a general direction in European land use. Eventually a development plan was designed that gave guidelines, for example, for the way in which European cities were to be allowed to expand, for environmental protection and so on. This process raised the issue in Greece once again. The Council of State also had a part to play. «In the early 1990s, the Council of State blocked the plans for major investments, invoking Law 360/76, which called for a complete land use plan which naturally had never been done. The Council of State began issuing these rulings in 1993 with decisions on fish farming and then industry, tourism, renewable energy sources, and certain categories of public works. The decisions acted as a means of exerting pressure,» said Yiannakourou. Fourth attempt: The state was therefore obliged to take specific measures. «The Environment and Public Works Ministry began to draft a new law on land use planning and at the same time asked the Council of State to allow the projects to go ahead,» said Economou. «Still, the drafting of the new bill took some time. It began in 1994 and was finally instituted in 1999.» Law 2742/99, still in force, provides for three kinds of land use frameworks: general, regional and specific. «That is, it is more or less what was provided for in Law 360/76,» commented Economou. «The only differences were in the nature of the plans. Law 2742/99 is more flexible, with general guidelines that are not particularly binding. The 1976 law had very strict implementation procedures.» At the same time, the ministry has commissioned land use studies for the regions, research programs on special land use frameworks (farming, mountain and coastal areas and land use policy) and the country’s general land use framework. «The first and only special land use framework in Greece was the one on the siting of prisons,» said Economou. «And that was because the Justice Ministry had an urgent need to set up new prisons and these had been blocked by the Council of State. Since then no other special land use framework has been instituted.» The 12 regional land use frameworks (for all regions apart from Attica) were instituted in 2003. Once more there was a complete failure to provide for any real change. «These frameworks said a great deal and nothing at the same time,» said Economou. «They could have defined the role of major cities, nature protection regions, guidelines for siting major public works, and so on. Still, most of them simply provided for a recording of the current situation and made recommendations for the future. There was no real plan, no specific provision.» The country’s general land use framework, completed in 2001, has never been instituted; although it was seen by the Land Use Planning Council, it was never submitted to Parliament for ratification. «I don’t want to belittle the study, which was made by a distinguished group of experts, but it was not complete,» explained Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis. «In addition, things have changed a great deal since it was designed, with the enlargement of the EU, plans for the Fourth Community Support Framework, and major developments in our region. Finally, the general frameworks should have reflected the orientation of the government that was to institute it.»