to curb unlawful construction on islands
Plus, 23 April 2010
A plan being drafted by the Environment Ministry and due to be made
public in the coming weeks aims to drastically curb the widespread
illegal construction that is damaging the environment and traditional
character of several Aegean islands.
According to sources, the planned reforms will roughly reflect the
provisions of a presidential decree drawn up for the protection of
Andros, the northernmost of the Cyclades.
If these provisions are followed, a series of restrictions will be
imposed, including a ban on construction less than 100 meters from
the coastline, the prohibition of deviations from regulations and a
ban on the practice by municipal authorities of opening up new roads
The rate of construction in the Cyclades in particular has been relentless
over the past decade with 3,079 new residences registered on these
islands alone in 2004, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority.
Research by Kathimerini has revealed that hundreds of new building
licenses are granted each year - about 500 on Paros, 300 each on Santorini
and Naxos, 250 on Kea and another 250 on Andros.
Many of these licenses are being snapped up by contractors keen to
tap into the lucrative tourism market by building rental accommodation.
But many of these units are slated for construction on pristine land,
much of it protected by law.
The feverish construction activity has prompted the protests of many
local authorities due to fears that the traditional character of their
islands will be compromised.
The community leader of Oia, an extremely popular tourist resort on
Santorini, last week lodged a complaint with the ministry, reporting
at least one instance of alleged illegal construction. The ministry
is looking into the allegations, which relate to the construction of
a large unit in a prime location on Oia’s famed caldera, which is theoretically
a protected area. Work on the unit was reportedly suspended following
According to Oia’s community leader Giorgos Halaris, certain individuals
are using licenses issued for the modification of properties to build
new illegal structures. Halaris highlights five alleged transgressions
of this kind in the past two years. One of the illicit projects is
said to have created the risk of landslides, as the rock face into
which the new property is being built has not been fenced off properly.
With its new initiative, the ministry aims to limit construction on
islands including Santorini to within the borders of existing settlements
and thus ensure that the remaining areas of natural beauty are left
Santorini Mayor Angelos Roussos told Kathimerini that apart from the
damage to the island's unique natural environment, uncontrolled construction
was also a financial burden. "Construction outside the villages and
settlements costs a lot for the state and local authorities, which
are then called upon to hook up water and electricity supply, gather
trash and open up new roads," he said. "Moreover, it destroys the natural
environment and, in areas like ours, this could have major consequences."
The ministry's plan is expected to be implemented first on islands
such as Santorini, with its singular rock formations and volcanic landscape,
before being extended to parts of the mainland deemed to be environmentally
Yiannis Alavanos, president of the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE),
welcomed the measures. "There has to be a stop to this wretched state
of affairs that is ruining the unique wealth of our islands," he told
Kathimerini. "The only solution is better planning and restrictions," he