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Up to 12 years to demolish illegal constructions on Greece’s coastline

Demolition of illegal constructions prohibiting access to the sea have started in Halkidiki, North Greece on Thursday morning. Short before 10 o’ clock municipality workers and representatives from local authorities moved to “Gatzoureika” settlement along the old land road Polychonoy-Chaniotis on the first leg of Halkidi peninsula in Kassandra.

After short conversation with two property owners, the workers started to cut down the iron fences, remove trees, bushes and branches.

It took whole 12 years for the illegal constructed fences to be removed.

Owners of two properties located next to each other had raised them years ago, thus prohibiting access to the sea for as long as 800 meters.

What if the “Tritsis” Law that set regulations for buildings and fences across the coastline was in effect since 1987?

The owners of the properties at the sea front did not want families with whiny children and noisy youngsters to come even close and annoy their tranquility.

By Thursday, August 2nd 2018, the peace by the sea is over. It needed at least 85 fire victims in far away East Attica for authorities to finally move in and implement court decisions that were finalized long ago.

It was the big fire in the area in 2006, that had local residents demanded the illegal fences being torn down. The residents had argued because of the long fences they had no easy access to the sea and their lives were at risk during the blaze.

Five years ago, in 2013, the residents decided to move against the property owners using the official way, local media report.

They first turned to the local urban planning institution. Then they had filed lawsuits against the two property owners. The residents complained that they had no access to the sea at a front of approximately one kilometer.

An endless legal battle continue with decisions at all court instances and relevant appeals either by the residents or the property owners.

Lat April, a court ruled a final decision on the issue: the fences had to be removed.

However, the property owners did not give up.

On May 10th, one of them submitted a document that his fence was legal, state broadcaster ERT reported.

Regional authorities ordered the postpone of the demolition decision in order to check the document. A month later they found out that the claim was not valid.

The demolition was scheduled for end of July, beginning of August.

At the same time, the second property owner insisted on waiting for the decision of the Council of State, Greece’s top court, to which both had filed in order to cancel court decisions at lower instances. The CoS is to issue its decision on October 23rd 2018.

With the green light from the central government in Athens, local authorities moved in the properties today and put an end to an endless legal case when it was clear from the very first moment 12 years ago that the constructions were violating the law.

The property owners cooperated with the authorities and reportedly asked a clear plan for the area.

At the end of  Thursday morning, demolition works and the opening of the passage to the sea  were halted though. Because of  a small private chapel,  a warehouse and two trees that need permission from the Forestry Department to be cut, media reported the next day. Now, a passage through bureaucracy is needed first, before the passage to the sea is complete.

The mayor of Kassandra said that demolition of other illegal constructions is to take place in the area.

With fast track proceedings the Greek Parliament passed a government amendment to facilitate demolition of illegal buildings and constructions in forest and coastline areas late on Wednesday.

Also this legislation allows owners of illegal constructions to appeal the demolition decisions, however, they cannot appeal more than three times. The third decision is also the final one.

In its preliminary conclusions report about the tragedy of the Athens wildfires, scientists at the Athens University that one of the reasons for 85 dead and more than 180 injured was the limited access to the sea due to illegal constructions and building.

Many Greek internet users have been running a ‘contest’ in the last couple of days, posting Google Earth pictures showing mostly big hotel facilities across the country that have blocked access to the sea with wall fences.

PS Where there is political will, there is also a way.

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