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Major changes for land usage, developments ahead

Restrictions on unregulated out-of-plan construction, changes in building-plot ratios and an acceleration of general urban planning throughout the country are among the changes to be implemented aimed at facilitating economic development and environmental protection.

The Environment Ministry is aiming for a radical makeover of spatial and urban planning laws through a series of measures, which will be included in legislation expected to be approved by September.

Restrictions on unregulated out-of-plan construction, changes in building-plot ratios and an acceleration of general urban planning throughout the country are among the changes to be implemented aimed at facilitating economic development and environmental protection.

In a recent presentation at Prodexpo North, Deputy Minister for Spatial Planning and Urban Development Dimitris Economou described parts of the planned changes. 

"One of the tools being introduced by the law that we will bring to parliament in the coming period is allowing for changes in land usage, in order to support the investments. Today, including an investment in the fast track process requires an eight-year wait.  This is not a fast track. Under the provisions of the bill, land usage will be able to be modified within four months when it comes to significant investments. It should be noted that this facility will not only apply to strategic investments, which currently number at around 20, but also to 1,000 of the largest investments ", said Economou.

Today, 80 percent of the country has no urban plans, and therefore no land uses, resulting in off-plan construction being a key element in real estate development. This translates into a plethora of negative consequences, such as the concentration of buildings in areas without infrastructure and the burden of the environment. With the new bill, restrictions on off-plan construction will be introduced limiting extreme steps in protecting antiquities, or by reducing building-plot ratios. 

At the same time, incentives will be introduced in the case of organized receptors in different fields of activities, such as tourism investments, industrial developments, or supply chain projects (logistics, etc.).

According to Economou, one of the urban tools, which will be activated by the new law, will be changes to building-plot ratios. To date, any relevant attempt has failed due to annulment decisions from the Council of State. "This is because none of the relevant efforts have been made to construct host reception zones. With the plan we are drawing up, we will determine the relevant zones in 50 cities in the country. The goal is to have these zones ready by the spring of 2021, so that the implementation of building-plot ratios can begin then."

At the heart of the bill will be the simplification and acceleration of procedures for the preparation and approval of urban plans throughout the country. "Today, a General Urban Plan (GUP) requires 12-15 years to be approved, that is, it is already obsolete when it is implemented. After 45 years of efforts, today we have GUPs for only 20 percent of Greece ", notes Economou. To solve this problem, all relevant procedures will be simplified and data will be added, such as climate change adaptation. The goal is to make it possible to prepare and approve a GUPs within 2.5 years, instead of up to 15 years today, he added.

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