The magnificent landscape combined with the urban character of the city preserved till today are two features that have saved Patras. «Otherwise chaos prevails,» said Patras University lecturer and urban planner Varvara Despiniadou. «One of the city’s major problems is the continuous sprawl toward the outskirts (the city’s population is over 200,000), affecting the hillsides around the city. Any vegetation is destroyed and the streams are filled with rubble. The floods and landslides that occur are not a chance phenomenon.» Each year new constructions occupy over 280,000 square meters. Lack of protection «There is a marked absence of protection of public land. Anyone can build wherever they want and whatever they want. Since plots of land are now expensive along the coast, building has now sprawled toward the mountains,» said Despiniadou. This has direct repercussions on the city’s interior. «Over the last few years, the fringes of the central park in Patras have been encroached upon,» she explained. A simplification of the procedures for declassifying areas of land will also accelerate the situation. «If the new measures are applied, that will be the end of Patras,» she stressed. The location of the port at the center of the seafront is also a disadvantage. «Work to transfer the port further south has stalled. The port now occupies the whole of the city front. The problem is that the seafront is under the jurisdiction of three different bodies: the Patras Port Authorities, the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and the municipality.» The remarkable industrial buildings of Patras have also been unexploited. «Instead of making the most of these sites, their machinery has ended up with scrap merchants.» In addition, preservation of neoclassical buildings has been fragmentary and is carried out by unorthodox methods, such as demolition and rebuilding. «A major opportunity was lost after the earthquake of 1995. Then a parallel urban-planning body was created and was empowered to demolish and approve of new constructions fast,» noted Despiniadou.