The text of the Strategic Investment Bill has been improved over its original form, which was put up for public consultation, after being introduced for discussion in the Production and Trade Committee. The urban planning facilities – in derogation of the current legislation – remain with the strategic investors, however introducing Presidential Decrees, ministerial decisions and other government approvals as “safety valves”.
It is noteworthy that, during the consultation of the draft law, there were strong reactions from various bodies, such as the Association of Urban and Spatial Planners (SEPOH), the Chamber of Environment and Sustainable Development, etc.
In particular, the bill promotes, inter alia, the concession of the use of a seashores, beaches, sea areas (continuous or adjacent) or the seabed for the implementation of a strategic investment. For those who draft ESCASE (Special Spatial Development Plan for Strategic Investments), the granting of the right of use to the investment body will be allowed after the issuance of the relevant Presidential Decrees (PD), so that the specific conditions to be determined will pass the controls of the Council of State (CS).
For the use of the seashore, according to the specific PD, a joint decision will be issued by the competent bodies of the Ministries of Finance, Culture, Shipping and Tourism, after the opinion of the General Staff of the Navy and after a public consultation, but only for seven days. The decision may include the simple use of the seashore and beach to serve the operational needs of the strategic investments, will determine the other terms of the concession and will document the reasons for which the concession is considered of public benefit.
Also, the possibility of granting the use of seashore and beach venues is added in the cases provided in Special Urban Plans, which are ratified by PD.
For strategic investment projects for which the right to use the seashore and beach is granted, as well as for other projects for which the legislation does not provide for the issuance of an operating license, environmental permits are now carried out by central services.
Natura investment licenses
For strategic investment projects on the beach and seashore, as well as other projects for which the legislation does not provide for obtaining an operating license, which are classified in category B (ie projects and activities that are characterized by local and insignificant effects on the environment), their inclusion in Standard Environmental Commitments (PPD), is made, by way of derogation from any other provision, as follows:
a) If the project or activity is located in whole or in part within the network of Natura Protected Areas – unless located within approved city plans, within settlement boundaries or in organized productive activity hosts -, a decision is issued by the competent body of the Ministry of Environment and Energy for inclusion in Standard Environmental Commitments and the issuance of additional conditions, if the process of the Special Ecological Assessment shows that the integrity of the protected area may be endangered.
b) in any other case a decision is issued to include the project or activity in Standard Environmental Commitments by decision of the Directorate of Environmental Licensing (DIPA) of the Environment Ministry.
The implementation of strategic investments is not allowed only in Natura zones that are characterized as “absolute nature protection”.
For large strategic investments – ie with a budget of more than 75,000,000 euros or more than 40,000,000 euros that simultaneously create at least 75 new annual jobs- it is possible to delimit, arrange or even redefine the streams located within the area where the project is to be developed. It will also be possible to make a partial demarcation. As for the act of ratification of the definition or redefinition of the boundaries and the works of regulation of the stream, as well as of the necessary works, this will be issued by the Minister of Environment and Energy, after a suggestion of the competent Directorate of Urban Planning.
Investments within the plan
For the realization of Strategic Investments within approved city plans, arrangements are promoted that allow specific and special derogations from the current terms and building restrictions of the area (according to the respective Spatial Frameworks and the New Building Regulation).
These derogations will be determined by a PD, which will be issued on the proposal of the Minister of Environment and Energy, after the opinion of the Central Council for Urban Issues and Disputes (KESYPO.THA) and after the preparation of a study of the Special Urban Plan. They will relate to the distances of the buildings from the boundaries of the plot and the distances between buildings and other facilities, the building factor, the coverage and the height. If the special derogations fall within the boundaries of an archeological site or monument, prior approval of the Ministry of Culture will be required.
With regard to the development and utilization of public real estate, the utilization of all those that fall into priority habitats, in areas of absolute nature protection and conservation, in the core of national parks, in natural monuments, in national parks and in wetlands of international importance, will not be allowed.