NEWS

Isles of Greece to be saved at 11th hour

The blatantly illegal and rampant construction on the Aegean Islands will finally be subject to legal restrictions initiated by the Ministry of the Aegean – after noteworthy foot-dragging by the State. An upsurge in illegal building activity that mars the beauty of the islands has ridden roughshod over the natural environment, said Aegean Minister Nikos Sifounakis, who has drawn up measures to preserve 284 settlements characterized as traditional, before the unique architecture and landscape of the islands is lost for ever. From now on, presidential decrees will stipulate clear, strict regulations for building on the islands of Serifos, Kythnos and Folegandros, both within and outside the limits of already built-up areas. Comprehensive measures will also apply to Paroikia on Paros and Vassilika on Lesvos, among other settlements, and will later be extended to other islands. Speaking about the presidential decrees, the Aegean minister damned the kind of tourist development that has been chosen up to now, castigating the Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) for its shortsighted policy on planning surveys, and going so far as to demand that all building be banned beyond the limits of settlements. Since 1991, tourist numbers have doubled, with arrivals reaching 6.6 million in 1999 from 3.2 million in 1991. Myconos alone receives 500,000 tourists during peak season, 50 times its permanent population of 9,500. Resulting pressures for more development remain exceptionally high. But demand has been met in a disorganized fashion, without basic aesthetic conditions being set. Both palatial villas that scream opulence and exhibitionism or shoddier constructions have shown a ruthless disregard for the Aegean landscape. Myconos is a typical example. On a 0.4 hectare (4,000 square meter) plot of land, only 200 square meters can be built upon, but in reality, dwellings by the sea may cover 1,000 or even 2,000 square meters. Up to now, there has been little interest in stamping out illegality. «The defective legal framework has created today’s construction anarchy,» Sifounakis said. «Even belatedly, we have proceeded with assigning studies and have drawn up presidential decrees that restrict construction and set clear criteria which must be adhered to in buildings under construction, so that our architectural heritage can be preserved.» The new presidential decrees only allow 150 square meters to be built upon; buildings are restricted to one story and cannot exceed 4.5 meters in height. Construction by building cooperatives and of swimming pools is banned. Wooden window and door frames are obligatory, white will be the prevailing color, and houses must be built 20 meters away from the road. At present, the Ministry of the Aegean lacks the necessary monitoring mechanisms, and measures will apply to future constructions, not to housing monstrosities or illegal dwellings which were built before now. Presidential decrees issued on construction outside settlement bounds – Kimolos – Donousa – Ano Koufonissi – Irakleia – Schoinousa – Amorgos – Anafi – Sikinos – Folegandros – Tilos – Nisyros – Halki – Megisti – Kasos – Telendos – Pserimos – Astypalaia – Leipsoi – Agathonisi – Arkoi – Ag. Efstratios – Oinouses – Psara – Fournoi