An illegal settlement

All the building permits issued for the area of Bala by the Kapandriti town-planning service contain errors and omissions, an official adviser’s inspection has revealed. Situated in the foothills of Mount Pendeli, Bala belongs to the municipality of Rodopolis. Ever since the area was distributed among stock farmers in 1934 following a ministerial decision, it has been built up along the lines of a village without any town planning. A special clause in Law 3044 of 2002 set out the basic guidelines for construction in the area, and notes that «the regulations can be amended by presidential decree.» To what extent that legislation is constitutional is under discussion, but the permits issued by the Kapandriti town-planning office go beyond the bounds of the legislation. That particular office has often come to the attention of the Public Administration Inspection Squad and the Ombudsman, whose reports had been sent to the public prosecutor. It was on the orders of the prosecutor that the official adviser reported on nine building permits that were issued in accordance with Law 3044, having found that all of them contained serious errors and omissions regarding basic town-planning regulations. The report notes that in 2002 the area already had a fairly disorganized layout. The sidewalks had not been determined and each landowner decided, by putting up barbed wire or a wall, where the boundaries of their property lay and consequently where the sidewalk or road began. A local stream was made to disappear. As the report notes: «In the building permits that were handed over for inspection, wherever there was a stream, it was covered over. The municipality had built an asphalt road on top of it.» The permits also ignore or sidestep other regulations. For instance, most do not take into account that part of the plot must be left uncovered so it can be sown, nor do they leave part of each plot for the creation of common spaces. Buildings that have already gone up do not appear on the new permit, in order to make it seem that there is still more land that can be built upon by law. The calculation of parking spaces mentions spaces for stores, even though the area has been designated strictly residential. Some plots that do not meet all the requirements are designated as suitable for buildings. The legislation stipulates that no plot may be closer than 10 meters to the stream, so on some permits the stream is not shown. Making the stream disappear makes the plot larger as well as the part of it that may be built on. One plot for which the Kapandriti town-planning authority has issued a permit is shown extending into the middle of the road. The report concludes by referring to another permit that was not turned over by the planning office for inspection. It recommends reviewing the permits and issuing new, amended plans. How did all this happen? Town-planning officials hid their heads in the sand after the report came out and were asked to explain why they had issued illegal permits. «I reject the accusation of neglecting my duty over building permits issued by our office in the municipality of Rodopolis, Attica,» the official called to testify wrote in a memo, explaining that one particular permit related to work that had come to a halt. In the case of a protracted halt in construction work, Public Works Ministry regulations stipulate that the permit be withdrawn. Yet work on that particular building only stopped when a complaint was made. Otherwise the building would have gone ahead, with all the irregularities approved by the town-planning authority.

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