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Planning and environmental issues

Planning

Which government authorities regulate planning and zoning for real estate development and use in your jurisdiction and what is the extent of their powers?

According to the Constitution, the state has exclusive regulatory competence and control over the organisation of spatial and city planning. By way of exception, private entities may initiate the city planning process (with implementation still effected by the competent authorities).

Greece’s spatial and city planning legislation was recently reformed. At present, the following levels of spatial planning are envisaged:

  • Strategic planning applies at the national level as a whole (national planning frameworks (NPFs)) and to individual regions (regional planning frameworks (RPFs)). Both NPFs and RPFs are approved by ministerial decision and contain spatial planning guidelines, but not prescriptive provisions.
  • The subsequent level involves:
    • regulatory plans (local spatial plans (LSPs)), which prescribe the general terms and conditions for building and the general uses of land in a municipality; and
    • special spatial plans (SSPs) which also prescribe the terms and conditions for building and the general uses of land, albeit by reference to areas which necessitate special treatment for specific reasons set out in the relevant legislation.

Both LSPs and SPPs are approved by presidential decree.

  • Lastly, detailed street plans (DSPs) refine and detail the provisions of LSPs and SSPs. DSPs are typically approved by a decision of the general secretary of the competent region. They determine building (city) apartment blocks and specify common and welfare areas.

Areas where the city planning process has not been completed (customarily referred to as ‘outside-the-plan’ areas) are subject to a stricter regime. The building terms and conditions are generally approved by way of a presidential decree.

In each case, in the course of determining building terms and land use, the responsible state bodies must:

  • refrain from introducing rules that would result in a deterioration of living standards of the affected area’s inhabitants; and
  • adhere to the process in effect relating to the environmental assessment of planning, in order to ascertain the impact of the proposed rules on the environment, among other things.

What are the eligibility, procedural and documentary requirements to obtain planning permission?

The competent government authorities may evaluate the purposefulness of the establishment or amendment of the building terms, as well as the land uses in each particular area.

In order to construct buildings on any property, the plot’s size and location must fulfil the criteria set out in the applicable legislation. The uses permitted for each plot are determined in the applicable LSP or SSP. Development of a property may be pursued only in compliance with the building permit that has been issued. As a rule, the local municipality’s building department is competent to issue the building permit, although the law may envisage special competences of other bodies, depending on the intended use of the property.

The law specifies the documentary requirements for the issuance of building permits, including the title deeds of the property and architectural and engineering designs. Depending on the scale and nature of the works, an environmental licensing procedure may also be required.

Can planning decisions be appealed? If so, what is the appeal procedure?

Planning decisions are typically subject to appeal before the Council of State within 60 days from their publication in the Official Government Gazette. Building permits are typically subject to appeal before the administrative courts of appeal within 60 days from the affected person learning of the permit. 

What are the consequences of failure to comply with planning decisions or regulations?

Ιn the case of, among other things, the performance of construction works without a requisite permit or in excess of its terms, or breach of the provisions envisaged by general or special building restrictions, the unauthorised building or construction is subject to demolition. Fines for erecting and retaining the unauthorised building may also be imposed. However, provisions relating to the demolition of unauthorised constructions have been applied to an extremely limited extent to date and, given the scale of unauthorised building activity in Greece over previous decades, various laws have been enacted which aim to regularise the larger part of such constructions, subject to conditions.

In the event that a building, construction or facility has an actual use which is different from the one envisaged under the applicable planning laws, the building, construction or facility may be subject to administrative sealing for up to one year or, in the case of a persisting offence, an indefinite period.

What regime governs the protection and development of historic and cultural buildings?

Historic and cultural building protection laws envisage a series of restrictions. These range from a complete ban on development to partial restrictions on the development of properties that neighbour ancient monuments. With regard to historic buildings, restrictions on the type of work allowed may apply in order to retain the characteristics that led to their designation as such.

Government expropriation

What regime applies to government expropriation of real estate?

The state may deprive a party of property ownership only for reasons of public interest and subject to prior compensation. The law envisages a special procedure for the pronouncement of expropriation and the determination of applicable compensation.

What is the required notice period for expropriation and how is compensation calculated?

There is no required notice period for expropriation. However, expropriation is typically effected only after payment of the applicable compensation, which can be time consuming. Compensation is payable within 18 months as of the determination of its quantum.

Such determination is typically decided by a court ruling on the basis of:

  • the imputed taxable (ie, objective) value of the property;
  • the value of transactions pertaining to similar and neighbouring properties; and
  • the potential profits from the property.

Environmental issues

What environmental certifications are required for the development of real estate and how are they obtained?

Depending on the scale and nature of the works, an environmental assessment process is required, in line with applicable EU law. Further, works and activities that have a significant impact on the environment require a decision of approval of environmental terms issued by the minister of the environment and energy or the general secretary of decentralised administration. The process involves the participation of various public bodies, including the delivery of statements of opinion, as well as public consultation.

A simplified procedure applies to real estate developments with a regional and non-significant environmental impact. Such developments are governed by model environmental undertakings, which include general terms and conditions for the protection of the environment. The competent government agency depends on the type of development.

What environmental disclosure obligations apply to real estate sales?

If there is no valid environmental permit and the seller fails to disclose this information to the purchaser, the seller may be liable on the basis of substantive defects. In addition, an energy efficiency certificate is typically required for the execution of the transfer deed.

What rules and procedures govern environmental clean-up of property? Which parties are responsible for clean-up and what is the extent of their liability?

If there is no valid environmental permit and the seller fails to disclose this information to the purchaser, the seller may be liable on the basis of substantive defects. In addition, an energy efficiency certificate is typically required for the execution of the transfer deed.

Are there any regulations or incentive schemes in place to promote energy efficiency and emissions reductions in buildings?

Incentives for the promotion of energy efficiency are in place and are typically financial in nature. The incentives may be prescribed by law or targeted schemes of the various agencies.

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