Yearning burning earning
The problem is relatively simple but politically and administratively complex. Forests are protected in the Hellenic Constitution. But the land on which they grow is not legally protected by strict zoning laws of the kind that exist, for instance, in the UK and older European countries.
4 November 2007. I recognise, as should all who think they can watch this wicked problem from some position of moral safety, that these problems are inflamed - literally - by desire for Greek land that exists among Greek citizens but starts far beyond Greece, in internationally stirred yearning for Greece, in a global market for an idea of place that feeds on and desires to consume Greece. Every commodifying exercise, internal and external, every sexy landscape image in glossy spreads, the posters and pamphlets at conference stands and, of course, on the web, enlivens the market for matches and turns the gaze of the profiteer towards the temptations of dry tinder. Yearning leads to burning leads to earning. This is a problem for me, for everyone. If Greece finds solutions, the world finds solutions. Hurling imprecations at the corrupt may be personal therapy. It's not politics.
Malcolm Brabant has just confessed on BBC Radio 4 that he "always felt a little guilty about living in Drafi." In July 2007, after fires had devastated the Parnitha forests, a cartoon was drawn by the foremost Greek cartoonist Yannis Kalaitzis - Γιάννης Καλαϊτζής - in Ελευθεροτυπία Eleftherotypia - and see Ab Irato.
The Greek government is introducing a cadastral system, but until it's completed, Greek forests are only forests while they have trees. Burn them down; avoid getting caught; let a carelessly discarded cigarette-end do its work. The land ceases - effectively - to be forested. In the UK, if a forest burns the land remains zoned as 'forest'. It must be recovered as forest; a tradition of government land-use law that goes back nine centuries to the Domesday Book.
Land registration incorporated into Regional Spatial Strategies, succeeding Structure Plans, involving prolonged consultation, won't stop the persistent land profiteer but it forces them to work harder than in Greece, where they get further help from the weather.
The goals of the forthcoming Greek equivalent - the Hellenic Cadastre - are listed below. The ones that matter in challenging yearning-burning-earning are in italics.
To secure the real property of citizensTo adjudicate, irrevocably, state and municipal property, forests and coastal zonesTo limit bureaucracy and simplify real property transactionsTo improve protection of the environment by limiting encroachment and unauthorized development of landTo establish an absolutely secure environment for investments in the real estate market
Forcing through the Hellenic cadastral will require great political will and greater probity among Greek planning professionals and greater opportunities for inspecting the public sector - more figures like Leandros Rakintzis, General Inspector for Public Administration whose website encourages citizens to report corruption.
* * * Betty at Walsall Road Allotments who wrote to Cllr Martin Mullaney on our behalf, has just copied me this email from Adrian Stagg:
Betty, the Cabinet Member for Leisure Sport and Culture has asked me to reply to your email about the Victoria Jubilee site. When Allotment Officers visited the site in May, we were told that the scheme would be completed by the end of July. There have been delays due to bad weather and there have been problems regarding the boundaries between the allotments and the adjoining sports pitches which are at different levels.The developer has presented a revised programme of works that suggests completion by the end of September, though there is likely to be a further delay before the pavilion is installed - once that is done we can inspect the works, identify any snagging problems and eventually accept handover. There is also a legal matter involving the land transfer to the City Council and whilst we have urged priority, this will take as long as it takes and I have no real idea of timescale. We cannot therefore occupy the allotments until we are legally entitled to do so (my italics).Allotment Officers can only do so much and delivery remains in the hands of the developer and other City Officers. There are still plots available if people want to go on the waiting list. Adrian Stagg, Allotments Finance & Records Officer Parks & Nature Conservation 303 3038