Urban sprawl curbed in four big cities

Larissa. In contrast to most provincial Greek cities, the main urban complex of Larissa belongs to one municipality.» But that doesn’t mean that all the city’s problems can be solved by a single municipal authority,» explained architect and town planner Christina Bezante. «I believe that the main question for Larissa is its role in the area. While everyone proclaims it to be the leading city of Central Greece, in fact established studies do not support that claim.» The most recent general town plan for Larissa (1986) made no provision for the creation of a university and new hospital. «The outcome was that the city is unprepared, not only in terms of space and infrastructure, but also in supporting activities, and these structures will be located outside the city, taking housing development with them,» Bezante said. «At the same time, the residential zone, the four industrial zones and the wholesale zone were never established and the army camps have not moved away.» Volos without an image Volos is expanding rapidly, and in every direction. The city is plagued with problems. «Volos is made up of five municipalities and its continuous inhabited area reaches as far as the foothills of the Pindus range,» said architect and town planner Roula Kloutsinioti. «The fact that this large area is not administered by a single authority gives rise to numerous problems. Apart from the tribulations that all Greek cities face, such as bad environmental and traffic conditions, Volos has a particular problem that is common to cities that have been de-industrialized: it hasn’t been able to develop a new image, an identity. «Establishing the university helped, but it hasn’t brought the liveliness and character that it could have,» added the architect. One of the most important issues for the city is the anarchic sprawl in all directions. «The city is growing rapidly, taking over the farmland on the outskirts, without any provision for infrastructure,» said Kloutsinioti. «Some experts raise the question of complementarity with the city of Larissa, suggesting that there should be a single metropolitan administration for the two cities, which are basically separated by residential areas,» she added. Ioannina, a messy sprawl In the case of Ioannina, administrative fragmentation has led to a complete absence of consultation.» The city comprises three municipalities and extends out to seven more,» explained architect and town planner Sahin Mesare. «Every municipality issues its own directives without taking neighboring areas into account.» The way the city has sprawled is a significant problem. «All the municipalities are exerting pressure for inclusion in the town plan. But we must avoid unreasonable expansion and bring construction activity under control,» Mesare said. In her view, what is most important for the city is to protect the lake and deal with the traffic problem. «Gradual removal of industry from the lakeside and the completion of the sewerage system will help save the lake’s ecosystem. And building a bypass is an issue of more than local importance that will solve a large part of the problems.» Any arrangements must apply to the entire Ioannina basin, «otherwise they will be canceled out by the area’s rapid development,» she said. Patras overspreads itself Patras has expanded so much that some of its basic infrastructure is administered by municipalities in other cities. «For instance, the hospital and university belong administratively to Rio. Patras’s urban sprawl has reached Nafpaktos,» explained Varvara Despiniadou, a lecturer in civil engineering at Patras University. Patras however, is a paradoxical case. Even though large areas have been included in the town plan, many people prefer to build outside them, on the outskirts of the city. «In 1970-72, major expansion greatly increased the size of Patras,» explained Despiniadou. «Those areas have still not been completely built up and many plots of land are still farmland. Despite that, construction has spread to the surrounding hills, and the neighborhoods that have been added still lack essential infrastructure.» The lack of restricted building areas is also a problem. As Despiniadou said: «The landscape is beautiful, but there are dangers. There must be some restrictions on building in areas that are at risk of landslides and earthquakes and are close to riverbeds.»