Gov’t defends zoning plan

Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday rebuffed criticism by environmentalists of a proposed «land zoning plan» that would allow the construction of tourism complexes, stressing that building would be subject to strict restrictions. He also invited environmental groups to join consultations about the plan. «It is completely false to say that (the plan) will lead to ‘concretization’ of tourist areas,» Souflias said.«Strict terms are set down and arbitrary construction is curbed,» he added. Souflias sought to assuage concerns over plans to permit the construction of tourism complexes containing apartments for sale or long-term lease. A maximum of 30 percent of the complexes’ surface area would be allocated to the apartments with the remainder reserved for green areas and facilities, the minister said. Areas protected by the European Union’s Natura program will be safer once the new plan is enforced, he added. While the law currently allows for construction on up to 20 percent of the surface area, the plan will set a limit of 2 percent, he said. Souflias stressed that the plan is not an imitation of «the Spanish model» of unchecked coastal development. WWF Hellas, one of the environmental groups which hosted this week’s press conference with the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE), condemned Souflias’s reaction, saying it overlooked environmentalists’ active interest. «We remind the minister that WWF Hellas has participated actively in all open talks on the environment,» WWF Hellas said. «Land planning cannot be guided exclusively by a desire for boosting construction,» it added. The fact that one of the plan’s original editors, Rania Kloutsinioti of the Association for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, has criticized the outcome of the plan speaks volumes, said the president of the association’s institutional framework council Yiannis Michail.

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