Invitation to the next Municipal Council

Application of the Fire Protection Regulation of Properties in and near forest areas

It happened (because it was mainly by chance that one could find out) and I learned about the voting of the Regulation since previous May. Since then, and taking the opportunity given to me by the pre-election tour with Free Kythira, in every discussion and every meeting in the villages we were informing about the problem that is going to appear next spring. Through the summer, after the election and during the winter slowdown, few in Kithira realized the actual magnitude of the problem. Until on 15/03/2024, i.e. 10 months after the secret passing of the Regulation, the Ministry, not having prepared the digital platform for the implementation of the Regulation, issued a circular passing on the responsibility for the collection of Reports and Statements to the Municipalities...

What does the application of thiw Regulation mean in a few words:

Today is Wednesday March 27, 2024. In 4 days, anyone who owns an off-plan building (house, hotel, stable, agricultural warehouse, whatever) and has not fenced his property with a solid wall and metal mesh will be considered violator. We could cheer a little, because in addition to fencing he would have to take a series of "scientific" measures such as trimming his trees every year based on the equation h/2+(1/3)*h/2 combined with the fact that "Trees over three meters high are distant to each other by at least half of their height. The measurement is made from the longest branch of one tree to the nearest branch of the next one and the height of the tallest tree of the two is taken as standard." And several other measures, some right, some wrong.

But the imposed fine does not allow us to deal with the issue with the usual self-mockery for the mess of our state. A real example is enough: on an estate of 18000sqm with a farm warehouse of 12 sqm the fine is 9000 Euros (every year...). In order for the unfortunate owner to comply and implement the planned fencing, the cost would be 770m (perimeter) X 120 Euros/m (fencing cost) = 84,700.00 Euros. And with the wait at SA exceeding 6 months, he would not be able to obtain the small scale license required. If all citizens applied for a license, the workload at YDOM would be such that they would not be able to handle the cases even in 10 years. In addition, each owner bears the cost of paying the "specialist" who will write the report EACH YEAR!


Which properties are in scope in Kythira?

In private discussions, some people tell me "the Regulation only concerns properties within or at a distance of 300m from forest lands". Well, applying the distance of 300m based on the forest maps, the areas excluded from the application of the Regulation in Kythira are shown in red on the map below:


As we understand, this regulation concerns EVERYONE.


A bit more analytical:

Upon the very first reading, one realizes that the Regulation on Fire Protection of Properties in or near forest areas is a piece of legislation created solely to strengthen the state's coffers and, above all, the guild interests of "specialists":

1. It was voted by an official Parliament: it was issued on Friday 19/05/2023, two days before the parliamentary elections!

2. Filed secretly. There was no public consultation, only a post on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send comments by email!

3. The proposed measures are not based on any scientific background. There is no study, technical text, etc. in "consideration", except for a statistical table of Fires, which, however, only examines the number of fires and not how destructive they were to the properties (e.g. in Kythira, we have many fires but minimal damage in buildings) and a vegetation table that was probably drawn up 60 years ago (eg the pine forest of Gerakari, Potamos and others are absent).

4. The imposed measures are horizontal (the same whether it is for metropolitan suburbs, the Thessalian plain, or the islands). Under the general term "outside city plan" the chaotic dense tissue of “luxurius” villas inside pine areas and the arid Cycladic pastures are treated as the same.

5. It is dominated by a perception of sterilization for off-plan construction and is suited to a game environment (lego, minecraft) that have no relation to reality, especially on our island.

6. It perceives the countryside as a recipient of middle and high income cottages and completely ignores the diverse nature of the uses and needs of its permanent residents. That the countryside is teeming with agricultural, artisanal and family residence of people who can't spare 5 years of work income to fence the family field.

7. As a natural consequence, the actual possibility of implementing the measures is not presumptuous: perhaps the planned fencing of an 800 square meter field in an expensive resort that costs 5000 Euros is acceptable but at a barren family plot in Kythira the cost can easily climb to 50,000 Euros.

8. How will the deforestation be implemented without violating the forest law in the hundreds of thousands of cases of estates within or in contact with forest lands (individual buildings before 1955 or settlements such as Stavli, Limnionas, etc.)?

9. It ignores the beneficial importance of -correct- planting near buildings for energy saving and people's well-being. It treats the traditional arbor in the same way as building amidst pines.

10. The regulation does not separate forest species from cultivated/fruit bearing species. In other words, traditional vines, lemon trees, etc. should be uprooted.

11. Many of the proposed measures are so out of touch with the reality that it becomes embarrassing. So, will an "expert scientist" measure every year how tall and how far each olive tree has spread?

12. Many of the measures are potentially criminal: solid fencing with additional metal mesh up to a height of 1.5m (under the pretext of reducing the spread of fire, when flames of 20 and 30 meters are created...) produces closed traps for people and for animals, a cage that imprisons everything but flames. (In every report on a fire in residential areas we see footage of firefighters trying to cut through a fence).3jpg

13. Due to the inapplicability of the provisions, it makes it impossible to indemnify real estate against fire (at the same time, other legislation makes insurance mandatory).

14. For the walling works, it requires the preparation of thousands of surveys and the issuance of hundreds of thousands of Small-Scale Works Approvals by the successful Ministry of Construction, a titanic task that would need to occupy all available engineers for decades!

15. It is unfair and traps citizens: it imposes retroactive burdens which they cannot meet and which, if they knew, they would never choose to live or invest there.

16. It creates a new generation of defaulters as it is virtually impossible for low/middle class owners to comply.

17. It is clearly class-based as it imposes the same absurd red tape and the same excruciating fines on an owner of a 10m2 rural warehouse and a 1000m2 villa or a hotel complex of thousands of rooms.

18. It devalues citizens' property and diminishes national wealth as the Regulation makes off-plan building unattractive and the sale of existing properties impossible.

19. Continues the policy of blaming the citizens for the omissions of the administration, transferring to them the responsibility and the burden of fire protection.

20. Finally, the imposition of responsibility for the implementation of this titanic project on the Municipalities is operationally problematic: how and by whom will the receipt of the thousands of supporting documents be carried out? Who will then transfer them to the electronic platform, under which instructions, where are the scientists for the three-member committees to be found, etc. etc.

Our actions so far:

Some municipalities (such as the neighboring Monemvasia) hasted to accept being the  central administration usher. We, having as basic principle that a Municipal Authority must really operate in the interest of the citizens and that the citizens should not accept as an answer "unfortunately that's the law" but demand actions to overturn unfair and unenforceable provisions , we immediately called the main opposition and agreed that the matter is extremely serious, urgent and, in order not to take on an oppositional tone that might diminish its importance, we requested that it be introduced to the Municipal Council by consensus from all factions. In fact, on 16/03, the oral request was immediately accepted in principle by K. Kapsalis, president of the Municipal Council. Then on 19/3 I sent him a personal email with a summary for the extraordinary introduction of the matter to the list of the next Municipal Council issues, and until today 27/3 we are waiting for the official invitation, where after consultation with K. Stathis the topic will be drawn up by the Municipality's Technical department (the main points of the proposal were developed above).

As Free Kythira, we will propose that our Municipality implements all correct provisions for civil protection (such as the preparation of Settlement Evacuation Plans, etc.), but at the same time refuse to take responsibility for the implementation of the problematic (horizontal, unfair, inappropriate and incorrect) provisions of the Regulation and to act with his legal advisor towards modifying or abolishing them (of course he will have the undivided technical assistance of the Kythera engineers). Irrespective of whether it will be this proposal that will be upvoted, the presence of the citizens while making the decision should be important, so that the municipal authority is empowered and can invoke the popular demand at any time and in front of anyone.

I am attaching the relevant files (Circular and Regulation) and I invite all the citizens of Kythira to attend the upcoming Municipal Council and to a collective struggle to overturn this unacceptable law.

Andreas Mariatos