Tighter checks on illegal building

Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos instructed all prosecutors yesterday to keep a close eye on town-planning departments required to demolish illegally built homes in their district, in a bid to better protect the country’s dwindling forest areas. In a circular distributed yesterday, Karoutsos underlined that a large number of town-planning offices ignore instructions to demolish illegal homes by using false excuses. According to legal sources, homeowners cannot be evicted or have their power cut off if they present a medical certificate showing they have been incapacitated due to health problems. If a prosecutor ascertains cases of town-planning officials that have failed to perform their duties, the employees can be charged with neglecting their duties, Karoutsos warned. Judicial officials are concerned that allowing those responsible for illegal construction activity to go unpunished simply encourages the practice and results in public distrust of law enforcement. Greek laws offer adequate protection for the country’s forests but shoddy enforcement by state bodies allows building cooperatives to step in and take over the charred remains. It is the second call from senior judicial officials to prosecutors to step up checks of town-planning authorities, considered to be one of the most corrupt parts of the state machinery in Greece. Meanwhile, Deputy Agriculture Minister Costas Kiltidis instructed forest rangers to enforce the relevant laws, carry out constant checks in their districts and implement measures that better protect burnt land. Kiltidis, who has been placed in charge of forest rangers, said that «the fragmentation of forest ranger services has created many problems that need to be tackled.» Laboratory tests confirmed yesterday that fires which burnt large areas of pine- and fir-covered land on Mount Parnitha, north of Athens, this last summer was the work of arsonists.