NEWS

Hydra: Residential areas in danger

The natural and residential environment of Hydra is changing due to pressure from tourism. The island does not have a legally established town plan, the limits of residential areas are not strictly defined, and neither are the borders between public and private property. No open spaces have been delineated. So applications for permits to build housing complexes on different parts of Hydra are often approved, to the detriment of the island. These were the issues raised at a press conference held Wednesday by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage on the threat to the protected settlement of Hydra. Eleni Maistrou, architect and assistant professor at the National Technical University of Athens, explained the threat: «There is no overall policy for the protection of sustainable development on the island, nor is there the town-planning legislation that should come from cooperation between the jointly responsible ministries of Culture and the Environment.» She added that although special environmental studies had been drafted and approved in 1989, they were never passed into law. Pressure for housing development has grown continuously in recent years, mainly for tourist accommodation and summerhouses, which could transform the island into primarily a holiday destination that functions for just two months a year, like so many other places in Greece. In late 2006, the Culture Ministry issued a ruling that allowed the construction of two-story houses at Avlaki in an area that had been designated a forest by the forestry authority. Hydra has been listed as an archaeological site as well as an active residential area, which entails a ban on actions that alter its character, the urban fabric and disturb the relations of buildings to outdoor spaces. According to attorney Vassilis Dorovinis, the vice president of the Hellenic Society, the fifth department of the Council of State issued an order suspending construction work on the two-story houses. The new settlements often only appear to comply with rules about retaining elements of traditional Hydriote architecture, using aluminium instead of wooden windows and door frames, for example. «The ones most to blame are the architects who design them,» commented Panayiotis Tetsis, artist, emeritus professor of fine arts and Athens Academy member.