Rules to shrink house size

The equivalent of 10 small municipalities is built in the Aegean every year, posing a serious threat to the natural landscape and beauty of the sea’s central, northern and southern islands. According to island planning bureaus’ statistics, 7,000 building licenses are issued every year. But this huge increase in construction is not justified by, nor linked to, a rise in the permanent population of the Aegean. The building boom of the last few years is the result of efforts to exploit the rise in the number of tourists and of the trend for country houses – often a source of income, as they are often rented out as seaside apartments during high season. But the construction boom has littered the landscape with buildings of dubious aesthetic value with little respect for the environment. The issue of settlement growth was never addressed with any seriousness, and regulations were never set down. The pressures for development and construction due to burgeoning tourist numbers in the past few years have grown dangerously. Today, the State faces the problem that if construction continues unchecked, in 10 years the Aegean will have lost all its unique features of architecture and landscape. The Ministry of the Aegean has proposed three presidential decrees that were approved by the Council of State and recently published in the government gazette. They set special building conditions for three islands, Serifos, Kythnos and Folegandros, overturning the specifications that have obtained up to now. They will likely soon be extended to other Aegean islands. Specifically: – Building on plots of land smaller than 4,000 square meters is forbidden. Exceptions, for plots of land of 750, 1,200 and 2,000 square meters, are abolished. – Only 150 square meters can be built on. In essence, this attempts to deal with the phenomenon – seen on Myconos in particular – where 1,000 to 2,000 square meters is often built over in a 0.4-hectare-sized plot. Stone houses can occupy more ground – 180 square meters. Old stone constructions of 50 square meters or less found on the plot of land will not counted in the total built-up space. – Buildings will be one-story, with a height of not over 4.5 meters. But the biggest change brought about by the presidential decrees is that the height of buildings will be measured from the natural ground level up. Until now, building regulations allowed artificially raised ground levels to be used, resulting in the appearance of buildings with two or three «basements.» – Construction of underground tanks to collect rainwater will be compulsory, while buildings will have to be at least 20 meters away from the road. – Complexes built by cooperatives will no longer be allowed, since they are reckoned to be at odds with the small scale of the islands. – No building facade can be longer than 10 meters. External access to basement or semi-basement areas is forbidden, as is the construction of curves and arches on building facades or garden walls. – Any form of construction is banned on ridges and heights of over 250 meters, with the aim of protecting the island uplands and the landscape. – Swimming-pool construction is banned, except by organized tourist companies after approval by the Ministry of the Aegean.