'Arrogant' Spanish Planners Criticised

April 24th, 2007

In response to a number of planning complaints from residents in Madrid, Valencia and Almería, a fact-finding mission in these regions was undertaken at the of February – led by the president of the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee, Marcin Libicki, and his Deputy, Michael Cashman, MEP.

Based on these investigations by EU inspectors, the report claims that large swathes of fragile Spanish coastline are being destroyed by irresponsible planning, and accuses local authorities of arrogance in their decision-making. It added that planning abuses in some areas had increased urban populations to unsustainable levels.

Condemning urban over-development and the notorious ‘land-grab’ law, as well as ‘generalised’ real estate abuse that exists in the country, it urged the Spanish government to do more to ‘recognise the legitimate property rights of individuals and prohibit the abuse of property rights by regional and local authorities’.

Commenting on its visit to Almería, the report blamed a ‘tacit agreement’ between the town hall and builders that allowed the construction of several hundred illegal homes in Albox, with some 2,000 houses in the Almanzora Valley now facing possible demolition. It added that residents of houses now identified as illegal ‘did not receive proper advice from either the local authority, surveyors or from local lawyers’.

The report specifically recommended that the regional government in Valencia should define by law the criteria for ‘public use’ to prevent further abuse of the coastline and protect the rights of foreign buyers. Focusing on civil rights, the report urged the European Commission to investigate whether extensive development has infringed Community Law or the rights and basic principles set out in the Treaty on European Union. The Petitions Committee approved the recommendations in this report last week.

In a recent report on the state of the market in Marbella, Christopher Clover, managing director of Panorama Properties, said between 40% and 60% of town hall income comes from urban developers and that Marbella is not an isolated corruption case. “In Valencia, 31.3% of citizens recently ranked corruption as their most serious problem.” According to the OPP’s recent survey of agents and developers in Spain (the full esults of which will be available in our full Spanish market report in July), 48% believe corruption is the main reason why buyers are being put off areas such as the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca.

Despite the bad press Spain has received in recent months, Moneycorp recently found that 30% of overseas property investment enquiries were for a second home in Spain, compared with 14% in France. Commenting on its recent Foreign Focus Index, a spokesperson said: “Spain is still one of the top countries for people buying overseas property. The market is tried and tested, has a solid history of providing good investment and rental returns and has been a magnet for UK buyers for years.”

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