A new draft town plan for Thessaloniki envisions the northern city expanding to incorporate Halkidiki, Kilkis and Pieria, in a «regional metropolis» that would be home to some 1.2 million people. The aim of the plan, drawn up by a group of civil engineers for the Environment and Public Works Ministry, is to encourage the decentralization of Thessaloniki’s population and businesses and to create more green spaces. The port city, currently home to about 1 million, has «outgrown» an old town plan, implemented in 1985, and needs a new one that corresponds to its current «dynamic,» the experts say. «Thessaloniki has expanded in all directions and has already incorporated what were once nearby tourist settlements, such as Peraias and Aghia Triada,» Nikos Kalogirou, head of Aristotle University’s architects’ unit, told Kathimerini. But he noted that this development had not involved a shift in population. «Unlike Athens, the center of Thessaloniki has retained its population,» he said. The town plan being discussed offers three different scenarios for the expansion of Thessaloniki, with the most extreme case envisioning the city including the bulk of the prefectures of Kilkis and Halkidiki and sections of Pieria and Pellas. A key aim of the plan is to ensure that the population of the northern city is curbed, as it has increased more than 20 percent in recent years. The protection of the environment and the creation of more urban green spaces is also a priority. Another goal is to improve infrastructure which, experts say, Thessaloniki lacks. Kalogirou believes this can be done. «If you look at successful examples of cities like Barcelona, you will see that change was brought about through town-planning studies,» he said.