Zagoria fears overdevelopment

Residents of the Zagoria villages in Epirus, northern Greece, are worried that their unspoiled group of traditional settlements is at risk of overdevelopment as interest from construction firms has increased with the creation of three local roads. Hostels and hotels have been springing up in the region over the past few years, including some three-story buildings which are – technically – forbidden. However, locals fear that the pace of construction will accelerate ahead of the scheduled completion of the Egnatia Highway next year, as well as two other local roads. «Three-story buildings have started springing up in Zagoria over the past few years,» a local resident told Kathimerini. «The size and shape of these buildings in relation to the environment has provoked surprise, if not fear,» said the resident, who asked to remain anonymous. He added that many residents had seen the value of their properties soar and were keen to cash in. Architects say they do not object to the extension of existing settlements across the 45 villages in the Zagoria region as long as all construction is subject to strict regulations. «Sooner or later tourism development was going to reach this area,» said Frangiskos Wilhelmos, a professor of architecture at the National Technical University of Athens. «The point is not to spoil the unique character of the local settlements and to keep development to a minimum,» he said. Wilhelmos said attention should be paid to the size of buildings, the materials used, architectural style, placards and facades to ensure that new structures do not spoil the existing aesthetic harmony.