18 Sep Off… plan the construction outside the city plan
Recent floods in Thessaly, along with the successive decisions of the Council of State, appear to have permanently eliminated the government’s ability to enact legislative provisions regarding permissible construction outside the city plan. Nevertheless, in recent times, strong rumors have circulated regarding the submission of a relevant legislative provision to Parliament. This has prompted 12 environmental organizations to issue a joint statement, urging the government to immediately abolish construction outside the city plan and the special licensing models for residential “i nvestments” in rural areas.
Following a series of decisions issued by the Council of State over the past two years that have tightened the conditions for the construction outside the city plan, the Ministry of Environment has initiated efforts to once again expand the possibilities for such construction. According to Deputy Minister of Environment, Nikos Tagaras, there are two proposed solutions: a) the ratification, with specific criteria, of the road network that existed in 1977 based on aerial photographs, in order to broaden the scope for construction based on the criterion of the “facade” along common roads, and b) linking the “age” of the land with the right to construction outside of planned areas, allowing construction on sites without a “facade” that were “created” before 2003. However, the submission of these provisions has been continuously postponed due to the latest decisions of the Council of State. In these decisions, the highest administrative court extended its arguments against construction outside of planned areas, emphasizing that any urban planning regulation should be accompanied by a special scientific study assessing its potential adverse impact.
Simultaneously, 12 environmental organizations jointly call for a drastic restriction on construction outside of planned areas, based on sustainability principles, such as the constitutional requirement for property contributions to urban development and rational spatial planning. They consider these principles essential elements to ensure the effective protection of the country’s natural wealth. According to their statement: “It is evident that construction outside of planned areas, in addition to the environmental degradation it causes, increases the vulnerability of the natural and human-made environment to natural disasters and, more generally, to the consequences of the climate crisis.”
At the same time, the Ministry of Environment is preparing a provision for the reinstatement of the possibility to legalize “Category 5” unauthorized structures (without building permits or with significant urban planning irregularities). The argument put forward is that there are still numerous such buildings in existence, which poses a challenge to urban planning. On the other hand, “Category 5,” as has been revealed multiple times in recent years, has served and encouraged the legalization of various forms of illegal construction, creating the perception of retroactive legitimization. The ministry intends to minimize this phenomenon by making mandatory the control of all declarations by a building inspector.
Finally, the Ministry of Environment is preparing legislative provisions to facilitate the termination of cooperation between citizens and engineers. According to available information, a law slated for submission to Parliament in the near future will include provisions concerning the change of the supervising engineer, with a focus on protecting citizens’ interests. Consequently, if an engineer resigns or is replaced but refuses to submit a declaration for the completion of the work he supervised or a declaration to the competent Building Inspection Authority, the progress of the work can be certified by a private building inspector or the new engineer through the submission of a technical report. If the departing engineer declines to receive his remuneration, this sum can be deposited into the Deposits and Loans Fund, followed by a certificate of this action to the competent Building Inspection Authority. This legislative provision is of particular significance, as it is currently exceedingly challenging for a citizen to part ways with an uncooperative engineer or to find a solution if the engineer abandons the project for any reason.
Source: Article in Kathimerini under the title: “Off… plan the construction outside the city plan”, available here