In Mani with its strong family traditions, the horizons of interest of its inhabitants were, for many centuries, limited. In the old closed societies of small villages, these interests were confined to the interior of the patriarchal family or perhaps to their village boundaries. People built their houses on barren land, cultivated the few fertile soils and grazed their livestock in common pastures. Only in exceptional circumstances, those that threatened the long-term balance of space and security of life, did Maniots undertake joint actions designed to safeguard pre-existing situations. In our century, however, these closed small societies have opened up permanently. The sources of income have also opened up with them. Barren land has, in many locations, become more profitable than fertile land, and its residential development yields a lot more income than many fertile lands of the same size. Despite all this, joint management, based on the the whole land area, has not made significant progress. Joint management efforts have been limited to uncoordinated loud protests and incomplete approaches to the development of new situations, which are the consequence of generalised planning and legislative initiatives undertaken at the central level.

The residential area that is clearly designated, with the exception of Gytheio, dates back to 1923, and is defined as the outline of the houses that existed then. The interventions to enlarge it, as a result of either social needs or political interests, expanded the residential areas to a certain extent and created new situations, from which many landowners benefited and improved their finances. Expansions of residential space, combined with the possibility of building outside residential areas for plots of land larger than four stremmas, came about through successive legislation starting as far back as 1955. These legislations referred to the possibility of building on small lots with frontage on provincial and municipal (formerly community) roads. A significant boost to construction activity was also allowed by the possibility of building on plots, self-contained before 1985, that were located in the zone of 800 meters from the center of the settlements that were more than two kilometers from the sea and had been classified as population stagnant.

These legislative regulations, which are positive for the finances of many families in Mani, have been inadequately applied by many beneficiaries and government bodies. Tritsis’ legislation for small urban planning initiatives with the provision of roads and squares in the zone of 800 meters of stagnant settlements, was silenced by his successors in the Ministry of Urban Planning and by the Prefects who were deciding to which settlements this legislation was applicable. Land concessions to common use before the issuance of building permits for off-plan incomplete plots, although they were drawn up with notary deeds and were registered in the land registry offices, remained in most cases on paper, due to the inertia of local government representatives to implement them. Something similar happened with the municipal roads, for which there are not even clear procedures for their final determination in each municipality.

In view of the intense tourist development in the country, and particularly of Mani, the need arose for changes in the definition of the urban area of each district, starting from the existing urban situation. The funding from the Development and Stability Fund for the preparation of Local Special and Urban Plans, settlement delimitation studies, municipal road designation, and their subsequent publication, are, in principle, an important contribution to the designation of the residential area. However, it has not become clear how long the whole procedure will take nor have the elements that will be taken into account in order to draw up the urban plan for each settlement been defined. Usually, because it is in the interests of the designers to prolong the completion time of the work and consequently their fees, the contractual time is extended significantly. However, this delay is in direct conflict with the interests of landowners in the study areas, since they are thus deprived of the exercise of their rights over their properties.

Several problems regarding the issuance of building permits have recently appeared in many areas of Mani, especially in those for which there is a significant demand for tourist development through proposals for inclusion in investment laws. There may be a basis for the state’s hesitancy to introduce transitional legislative arrangements, for fear of creating a new generation of residential distortions, but it loses its justification when the supervising ministers cannot ensure the timely completion and implementation of the Local Urban Plans under preparation. An additional and particularly important factor is to ensure transparency in all phases of the development of this urban planning process. It is necessary that the elected local authorities have full knowledge of the framework in which the urban plans of their area will be drawn up. This knowledge, together with the possibility for improvement and the relating of the opinion of their citizens with legitimate claims to the appropriate authorities should be the first obligations of the local politicians. This is because Urban Plans do not only concern the current residents, but mainly the generations to come…