Planning policies, environmental protection and out of cities and settlement buildability

In the last couple of years, there is a new trend in national planning policy, to reduce building allowance in areas outside the boundaries of cities and settlements , and the protection of environmental and natural resources. It is lately implemented by increasing the minimum plot area required for a permit to build, in agricultural locations and locations which are protected by the Natura 2000 network. At the same time there is a tendency to improve the bureaucratic procedure for permits of large strategic private investments, and their integration to the national planning policy.

Many laws which were either legislated or presented as proposals but didn’t passed, point to this direction.

  • The Law fast-track (N.3894 / 2010) “Accelerating and Transparent Implementation of Strategic Investments” and the law (N.4146 / 2013) ” Implementation of friendly Development Environment for Strategic and Private Investments” which is an extension of N.3894/2010. These laws give a numerous facilitations, both in licensing procedures and national planning integration, through the institution of Planning and Development of Strategic Investments.
  • The Law (N.3937 / 2011) “Conservation of biodiversity” increases the minimum plot area for building allowance in areas under Natura 2000 network, to 10.000m2. After severe objections by investors and land owners, the law preserved with exceptions, some areas to be able to build with 4.000m2 minimum plot area (areas which covers about 20% of the Crete).
  • In 2016 there was a law plan which proposed the abolition of valid exceptions in rural areas of high productivity, for plots under 4.000m2. (This law did not pass after objections of small investors in such areas).
  • Furthermore, in 2016 a discussion started, with a proposal to increase the size of areas which belong at the Natura 2000 network, for further environmental protection.
  • Finally, the General Urban Master Plans (Master Plan) that were enacted recently, further increase minimum plot areas for buildability, in areas under protection. (Rethymno Master Plan is an example such modifications, where many landowners lost their property value since they turn to properties of only agricultural use).Such policies, which reduce the allowance of building construction in areas outside city and settlement boundaries, provoke huge reactions of micro-landowners who see their properties being devalued. These objections are so intense, that many times lead to law withdrawal.

    At the same time, small land owners feel the sense of injustice, since all laws provide privileges to large land owners, even in areas of high environmental protection, which gives the impression of two parallel worlds, always according to the economic power.

    The only way to reduce building allowance in protected areas and at the same time avoid reactions without devaluing properties, is small land owners to be compensated according to the depreciation of their land.

    Such measures could be to give incentives for cheap residence to land owners , until there is capability of transferring or selling such plots building allowance to organized and sustainable settlements.

    In any case, a balance between the environmental protection, conservation of natural resources and building ability in all population groups, is very difficult to be found. Meanwhile it must ensure common terms for everybody, sense of fairness and incentives either for large-investors and small-investors.