15-year land zoning plan in the works

The Environment Ministry unveiled plans yesterday to introduce a national land zoning plan aimed at stamping out illegal building activity and cutting down on the number of municipalities across the country over the next 15 years. Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias described the plan as being an important reform for the country that can help secure long-term growth. «This is a difficult project, as there is a lack of experience regarding researchers and the administration involved,» said the minister. The plan aims to limit homes being built beyond town-planning areas and by banning construction activity in certain zones outright, such as farming areas. The release of the plan comes at a time when concerns have risen about illegal construction taking place on the thousands of hectares of forestland burnt across Greece this summer. Another key area of the zoning plan is the recommendation to cut back on the number of municipalities and prefectures. «Our goal is to create feasible administrative and development units,» said Souflias. «As part of this, we aim to redraw the map of existing municipalities to reduce their numbers and help them achieve a stronger administrative structure. Additionally, a reduction in the number of prefectures and councils is being proposed,» said the minister without providing further details. Other proposals put forth include the creation of new ports on islands (away from residential areas) and the gradual transfer of ferry services from Piraeus to Rafina and Lavrion. Additionally, the plans suggests proposing another 80 protected areas as national parks by 2013. The draft plan is expected to be brought before lawmakers in September after being assessed by a national committee on town planning. PASOK’s Andreas Loverdos described the plan as being incomplete and accused the conservative government of failing to hold proper talks on the issue.