Envitonmental Organisations Joint Press Release

Envitonmental Organisations Joint Press Release

  • ΕΛ

Building outside designated development zones: Accelerating the destruction of Greek nature

23 January 2024

The disclosure of the government’s intention to expand, even if only temporarily, the process of building outside designated development zones -known in Greece as “off-plan” building- has caused sharp reactions; which is remarkable for a draft law that has not even been published yet. This alone shows that a significant part of the Greek society is opposed to further construction in the countryside and the uncontrolled and unregulated expansion of settlements.

It should be noted that the protection of the natural and cultural environment is a constitutional obligation of the State and a right of everyone. Furthermore, as the Plenary Session of the Council of State has recently ruled, the Constitution introduces a fundamental distinction between areas within designated urban development zones, which are destined for development, and “off-plan” areas, which, in principle, are not destined for housing or tourism development, but for farming, stockbreeding, forestry and public recreation. In the latter, building is permitted only exceptionally.

Existing legislation provides for restrictions on “off-plan” building, in line with the constitutional requirement, while Special and Local Urban Plans are currently being prepared, to accommodate the needs of additional construction. The completion of urban and spatial planning is the only constitutionally compatible option for planning in Greece, providing, inter alia, for the contribution of private property in the process of urban development.

“Off-plan” building has been documented to be associated with specific problems of degradation of the natural environment, such as: opening of roads in sensitive coastal and forest areas, blocking of streams and coastal areas, increased fire hazard from power cables, but also “development” issues, such as the loss of productive farmland, increased garbage collection costs, increased costs of water supply network extensions, etc. It should also be noted that development control and monitoring of environmental regulations is insufficient in cases of “off-plan” building, while administrative decisions to remove informal constructions in “off-plan” areas, such as roads and buildings in protected areas (e.g. National Marine Park of Zakynthos, Nature Protection Zone in Kyparissia Gulf, etc.), have not been enacted so far.

The government seems to be creating favourable conditions for the uncontrolled expansion of “off-plan” building before the adoption of urban plans. If realised, this option will irreparably damage Greek nature, harming long-term prospects for sustainable development, whereas it will apparently be vulnerable to constitutional scrutiny, causing legal insecurity. This policy will have detrimental effects to the Greek nature and landscape, which are the main resources of sustainable development and tourism of the country; at the same time, it will sharply increase the energy footprint and the vulnerability of “off-plan” areas to the expected impacts of the climate crisis.

The undersigned Environmental Organisations request: (i) that the leaked proposals are not submitted and the government accelerates and supports the completion of the planning process, and (ii) the initiation of a meaningful and widely participatory open dialogue to rationally address the problems of “off-plan” building.

The Environmental Organisations:

  1. ANIMA
  4. ELLINIKI ETAIRIA – Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage
  5. Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature
  6. Hellenic Ornithological Society
  7. Society for the Protection of Prespa
  8. Callisto
  9. Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA)
  10. Ecological Recycling Society
  11. Greenpeace
  13. WWF Greece