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  • Γιώργος Φιντικάκης

Off-plan construction comes into play again

What will apply to the "blind" plots

Off-plan construction comes into play again. Tens of thousands of owners who had seen their plots devalued overnight by the State Tax Administration, because even though they were four acres or more, they did not have access to a public road, i.e. they were considered "blind", will now be able to rebuild.

It is sufficient, depending on the age of the property, whether it was created before 1985 or between 1985-2003 (when the minimum evenness and "face" restrictions were introduced respectively), that it meets the favorable interpretation of what a public road means, which provides for the new bill of the Ministry of Environment.

The arrangement included in the zoning plan presented yesterday by Th. Skylakakis in the ministerial office, attempts to remove the impasse in which thousands of owners have found themselves in recent years after the horizontal property depreciation of off-plan building by the Council of Ministers.

The final blow to their estates came last spring when the Supreme Court ruled that the minimum area of four acres was not sufficient, but that the property "fronted" on a public road was required as a condition.

To be fair, it wasn't just the SC's fault. For so many years, under the responsibility of the state itself, the process by which a road is determined as public was not clearly defined.

Is it the provincial road designated by ministerial order? The one that connects settlements with each other and with national, provincial roads? At the edge of urban planning? The road that allows access to coasts, archaeological sites, important public works. The one that existed in 1923?

The occasional circulars from the relevant ministry only created confusion, both for the relevant officials and the private engineers.

Somehow, by making a horizontal prohibition, since this did not even define what it meant by a public road, the CoE took off the market a huge amount of real estate throughout Greece.

Development that not only excluded the possibility of legal construction, which has rules and is not arbitrary, but also created the risk of a new generation of arbitrary buildings appearing in the Greek countryside.

And it made it the only solution for the owners of these disreputable properties to sell them instead of "lentil board" to neighboring owners, in order to merge, according to the law, to erect larger constructions, which are anything but favorable to the environment.

Now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regulation is trying to create a new situation. It comes to clarify what the CoE means in terms of the need to have a "face" of the property on a public road. And he sets specific conditions, in terms of its width, the aerial photographs that will prove that it existed, what will be done with the "blind" plots, etc.

Specifically, off-plan properties can now be built if:

1. They were created from 31/05/1985 until 31/12/2003 and have a "face" or one of their boundaries (with a length of at least 3.5 meters) abuts a road shown in aerial photographs before 27/ 07/1977, at least 3.5 meters wide. It should also be connected to a community, municipal, provincial or national road.

2. They were created before 31/05/1985 and have a "face" or one of their boundaries is tangent (always at least 3.5 meters long), either to a street shown in aerial photographs before 27/07/1977, or ensures a right of way, leading to a public road, at least 3.5 meters wide.

Greek legislation does not mean a property without a right of access to a street. In the case of a "blind" property, which lacks the necessary access to a public road, the owner is entitled to request the establishment of an easement. That is, the granting of the right of way through a neighboring property, against the payment of some compensation.

As long as the above is the case, then the plots that were considered "blind" by the CoE can be built on.

Of course, off-plan construction, in addition to being easier, also becomes somewhat more expensive. The cost of issuing the building permit is increasing. The ministry, which is often criticized for favoring off-plan construction over environmental protection, is establishing a new fee for the above cases.

Its amount will be determined by a ministerial decision of the Ministry of Environment-Energy and National Economy. The "environmental equivalent", as it is called, will be deposited by the owner before the permit is issued to the Deposit and Loan Fund and its revenue will be directed to the relevant Municipality exclusively for infrastructure and climate change adaptation projects.

And here, of course, there is an issue. Who will check each Municipality that the revenue collected from the citizens became infrastructure, capable of coping with climate change and not vote-seeking projects? Municipal rulers will be held accountable at regular intervals during their term of office for the utilization of this new source of revenue that will be collected are they losing?

Staying in the big picture, with the above arrangements a second chance is provided to those owners who saw their properties devalued overnight, their values reduced to zero and they lose the right to build regardless of the area.

It should be noted that the arrangements brought by the new law of the Ministry of Interior for building on the four-acre plots outside the plan are transitional and last until 2025.

Then it is estimated that the country's famous spatial planning will have been completed, i.e. the entire territory will have acquired local town planning plans, which will definitively determine land uses and building conditions.

A reform project that should take into account the challenges of 21st century cities, the increase in demand for infrastructure and the protection of the environment, without the need for such transitional provisions.

It is a pending issue that concerns millions of citizens and has unfortunately lasted in this country for a whole century.

Hence, very often in urban planning legislation we refer to pre-1923 roads and settlements, i.e. we still maintain an antiquated framework, making Greece one of the negative exceptions throughout Europe.

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