Greek govt promises demolition of thousands of illegally built structures, in wake of deadly wildfire

2 August 2018
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The Greek government on Wednesday, still reeling from the fallout of more than 90 fatalities due to last week’s wildfire in eastern Attica prefecture, promised to demolish at least 3,150 illegally built structures – mostly holiday homes – around the greater Athens area.

Of the number, a government spokesman said 650 have been built directly on the shoreline. The other structures, the spokesman said, have been officially been declared as illegal and needing demolition.

Spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, in fact, said a new draft bill will be presented on Thursday to accelerate and streamline bureaucratic procedures to demolish such structures. Asked when the demolitions will begin, he answered “immediately”.

Illegally built structures, i.e. without necessary building licenses and zoning permits, are the scourge of modern Greece, which is practically alone among western states without a land registry (cadastre) and accompanying town planning codes. All types of structures, ranging from small prefabricated units to villas with pools, as well as holiday homes built directly on the coastline dot much of Greece’s landscape that lies outside town planning boundaries.

Although illegally built structures are not responsible for the deadly wildfire that swept through a stretch of coastal east Attica prefecture last week, a pine-covered coastal site (Mati) sandwiched between a main roadway and cliffs overlooking the southern Evoikos Gulf, was dotted with scores of such residences bore the brunt of the blaze.

The massive amount of combustible material entailed in the pine trees, gale force winds during the specific afternoon, narrow roads, dead-end alleys, and holiday homes fully occupied amid the ongoing summer season, and often built next or even beneath the trees, resulted in almost 100 fatalities, as hundreds of people were trapped in the flames, smoke and confusion.

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