Souflias defends tourism zoning

Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias has hit back at claims that the zoning plan for tourism being drafted by his department will lead to Greek islands being covered by swathes of concrete as one holiday complex after another goes up. In a letter sent to Sunday’s Kathimerini, Souflias argues that the plan being prepared will actually help protect the environment and lead to more organized and less obtrusive construction than under the current legislation. Environmental groups recently issued a statement condemning the plans, saying that «they are treating tourism as an activity chiefly connected with public works and favoring large-scale projects such as golf courses and massive hotel complexes… without considering the need to protect the natural environment.» However, Souflias says that his scheme would be better for a number of reasons. Firstly, it limits the number of beds in a holiday complex or hotel per hectare from 150 to 80. The minister says that his zoning regulations would also stop anyone building up to 100 meters from the sea. The current limit is 50 meters. Also, construction would be limited to 10 percent of each plot of land, so someone owning 200 hectares would only be able to build on 20 hectares. The new law would furthermore require anyone wanting to build a tourist complex on a Greek island or a mainland resort to prove that they would be contributing something positive to the local community and to the tourism sector.