An ambitious 20-year plan to curb development in the densely populated capital, crack down on illegal construction and extend the existing metro system to an eight-line route covering most of Attica was announced by Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias last week.

However the ambitious plan has been criticised for curbing building in densely built areas or on stamping out illegal construction, according to Professor Dimitris Economou, head of town planning at the University of Thessaly.

Economou helped devise the preceding town plan for Athens more than a decade ago.

The plan proposes regulating town planning, cracking down on illegal construction, which is widespread and establishing a separate agency to carry out the demolition of illegal buildings, he said.

However the plan is criticised by Economou for not restricting construction in areas that are already overdeveloped, including many parts of the capital.

“There should only be very limited development in the capital and not in areas where illegal building has flourished already,” Economou said, adding that demolition of existing illegal structures should get under way as soon as possible.

Economou also called for a plan that looks beyond the city itself. “Metropolitan Athens now stretches as far as Thebes, Corinth and Halkida,” he said, adding that “the absence of any unified plan” had resulted in “distortions” such as the excessively developed area of Oinofyta and Mesogeia.

The plan also proposes a 220 kilometre metro network comprising eight lines with 200 stations and covering 85 percent of Attica.

In addition to the three existing lines, and a fourth U-line connecting northeastern with northwestern Athens, the plan envisages another five routes.

It proposes lines connecting Vyronas and Pangrati with Patissia and Ano Liosia; Halandri to Piraeus via Kallithea; Thiseion to Perama and Haidari to Alimos. Line 8 would be a circular line that would run through many of the aforementioned areas.

“Of course, all these lines cannot be built in the next 20 years but this constitutes a comprehensive study for the needs of an Attica metro system,” Souflias said.

Economou praised the prospect of an extended metro system with a total of eight lines and called it the most positive part of the plan.

The minister said the draft bill will be debated until November when it will be formally considered by Parliament.