Illegal construction booming

Inefficient town planning services, excessive bureaucracy and selective enforcement of existing laws have resulted in 2.5 million illegally built structures across the country and countless more buildings that have been illegally modified, according to research by Kathimerini. Of some 25 million buildings in Greece, 10 percent are totally illegal, while 90 percent of the remainder have been extended or embellished in some way that is also unlawful. In many cases, owners with permits for private homes build nightclubs or other businesses. With one such building in the coastal resort of Voula, town planning officials carried out inspections in 2004 and the owner was handed a hefty fine. But no action was subsequently taken to demolish the building and the business is still operating. According to reports compiled by public administration inspectors, the country’s 173 town planning offices are among the most inefficient and corrupt state services. Of the thousands of citizens’ complaints received by the inspectorate every year, one fifth are about town planning offices. In an interview with Kathimerini, the country’s general inspector of public administration, Leandros Rakintzis, proposed the creation of three separate agencies to tackle the scourge of illegal construction. According to Rakintzis, a more efficient approach would be to have one service issue the building permits, a separate office for inspections and a third with responsibility for demolitions. «For the situation to change, we need to have a separate service for issuing permits and another for checking adherence to permit terms and conditions,» Rakintzis said, noting that «there should be no communication between the two services.» As for demolitions of illegal structures, he said they could be carried out if the «political will» existed. He stressed there was considerable funding available for the demolition of existing illegal buildings, but proposed that this cash be used instead to set up a third service to oversee demolitions, which would be «autonomous, self-sufficient and not politically dependent.»

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