Paros may be first isle in Cyclades to get town plan

Paros may become the first Cycladic island to get an overall town plan with the consensus of the local community. But many on the island fear that its implementation will encounter serious obstacles. This week the Paros City Council meets to discuss the proposal for the town plan, which it had assigned to two Athens companies during the term of former Mayor Yiannis Ragousis. Local authorities and residents have had to deal with the growing population, which increases the pressure for construction on an island which until 1970 was one of the poorest in the Cyclades. The team of architects, town planners and engineers estimate that the population (permanent and seasonal) will shoot up to 73,000 by 2021 in high season, due to the influx of holidaymakers and owners of second homes. The latter are expected to increase from 19,000 to 32,000, and the study predicts that construction of second homes, rather than the creation of large hotel complexes, will become the main form of economic activity. The study recommends designating land use, imposing conditions on construction, restricting building outside the town plan, and protecting farmland, Natura sites, and coastal wetland habitats. It also proposes a protection zone for the landscape of Paroikia, and the allocation of areas for quarrying and other activities. Another recommendation will limit house size in relation to land plot size, and prevent the practice, which is very common on Paros, of using pergolas to link buildings owned by different people. This is subsequently legalized by engineers, notaries and the legal officials at banks. That provision is opposed by people in the building trades, as it affects an estimated 70 percent of their business activity. Objections Some residents have also raised objections. The Friends of Paros citizens’ action group opposes the increase of building within the town plan to 62 percent of settlements. Given the projected population increase, they complain that it will make the main villages of Paros (Paroikia, Naoussa and to some extent Marpissa) look more like joined-up communities. They say it will make those villages less attractive as sites for second homes and will encourage people to build outside the town plan. Both the authors of the study and a number of council members who spoke to Kathimerini noted that those villages are already developing into an urban sprawl. As one leading Paros architect put it, «the problem is how to ensure common spaces where there is intense pressure.» The study also sets a target of ensuring shared space on popular beaches. If the council approves the study, the main issue will be implementation of the General Town Plan. In order to be implemented in each village, it must be approved by the regional authority. The longer that takes, the less hope there is of limiting new construction in the areas that will see the greatest restrictions (near beaches, above 300 meters and elevated areas above Paroikia). Since the study was first presented, the Paros municipality’s technical service has already noted increasing pressure for building permits in those areas.