NEWS

The result is chaotic construction and often a loss of investments

For 30 years the Greek State has been completely incapable of creating a land use, or zoning, plan for the country in order to define and set zoning limits and implement directives. «The siting of important structures is done without any plan,» said Professor Dimitris Economou of Thessaly University’s town-planning department. «Town plans, major public works, industrial areas, energy sources, all these are constructed without reference to any framework. At the same time, many policies are implemented by individual organizations without any regard to the consequences. For example, increased production has resulted in an overconsumption of water resources in many areas.» According to Ilias Beriatos, head of the Association of Greek Town Planners, the lack of quality of life in both town and country, the deterioration of the environment and the lack of functional organization in the economy, are all the result of this problem. «Zoning would provide us with the proper base to organize the development of non-urban space,» added Thanassis Katsiyiannis, head of the parliamentary Environment Committee. «People are right to complain since they don’t know what to do with their property but, on the other hand, are held responsible for protesting against any restrictions.» Things have changed slightly recently, not because politicians have realized the benefits of strategic planning, but because the situation has reached the point of no return. «During the 1970s and 1980s, society was more concerned about town planning than about the zoning of land use,» said Georgia Yiannakourou, professor of land use planning law at Thessaly University. «And that is because land use planning has to confront the problem of what we call ‘law security,’ that is, for the rules to be known in advance, regarding, for example, which areas are designed for certain investments and which are not. At present, outside the town plan there are competing uses that not only affect residents but entrepreneurship: For example, someone builds a hotel next to a factory which the hotel owners then try to push out. So the lack of a plan affects the viability of investments. Zoning is not aimed at suppressing growth but at orienting it.» According to Katsiyiannis, both Greek and foreign investors are discouraged because they don’t know the exact rules of the game. «Moreover, if the areas and building conditions had been defined in the 1970s, and people not left to build and then hope for legal status, we would not be in the position we are in now. Some parts of the country, such as Myconos or Santorini, have been built up so much that I believe that in a few decades people will begin to leave.»