NEWS

Land acquired for new city parks

Almost 20 million euros in public funds will be spent buying up land at four sites in crowded neighborhoods in Athens and Thessaloniki so they can be transformed into parks, the Environment Ministry said yesterday. The government has plans for two sites in Athens, in Ano Patissia and Sepolia, a couple of kilometers northwest of the center, and in the Martiou and Ano Poli districts of Thessaloniki. The Environment Ministry’s announcement represents a rare step from the fencing off of land by local municipalities to its actual appropriation using state funds. The purchase of the four plots, which total 1.6 hectares, will cost the government 18.6 million euros. The largest of these sites will be in Ano Patissia, where a factory now takes up just over 0.8 hectares, followed by a 0.4-hectare plot in Sepolia, where another industrial facility is currently located. Both neighborhoods are crowded and have few green spaces. Residents have been campaigning for some time for new parks to be built. «Municipalities set aside land for public spaces but do not reach the point of appropriation because it is not among their priorities,» Ilias Giannaris, an architecture professor at the Technical University of Crete and head of the Observatory for Free Spaces in Athens, told Kathimerini. «The problem is that there is no specific policy for appropriating land and often the spaces that are bought cannot be connected.» However, the City of Athens says that appropriation has become a complicated process. «In the past, appropriations took place without any planning but now certain criteria must be met,» said Tasia Lagoudaki, who oversees the municipality’s policy. «Following a three-year study, the City of Athens has developed a strategy.»