Friday, 19 October 2012

Coastal law proposals approved last week, subject to much opposition

Luxury on the beach
Chiringuitos and coastline properties get up to 75 years' reprieve · Environmentalists in heated opposition
MADRID At the press conference after last week's Friday Council of Ministers meeting, Vice-President Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría announced the approval of the draft for a reformed coastal law (Ley de Costas) that has two objectives: coastline protection and protection under law of property owners and licencees. She said that it 'solved the chiringuito problem' that 'were on unsafe legal ground'. The new law allows them concession for the next four years, plus maintenance as long as environmental protection regulations are obeyed. COMING SOON: SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION>>>
The law, said Sáenz de Santamaría, means 'zero tolerance of aggressions against the coastline', and includes an 'algarrobico clause' (see below for an explanation of the term) that is aimed at confronting local authorities' approving construction that is against the law. The clause allows the central Administration to proceed against building on common coastal land or beaches. The minister also said that the draft 'solves the problem of the chiringuitos' (beach bars that are sometimes larger and as luxurious as some of the best restaurants).

'Clear and rigorous'
Regarding administrative demarcation of the coast, the Vice-President said that the draft text of the law introduces changes so that this can be carried out under laws that are 'much clearer and more rigorous' and aimed at protecting owners of properties affected by new limitations.

As well as changing the maximum period of concessions (to properties built on what is now common ground, often right up to the sand) for up to 75 years, allowing for donatio mortis causa or inter vivos (the transferal of property to heirs, before death), which means that the period of notification for the concession  is extended from one to four years.

Regarding the extension of the concessions to existing properties and buildings lying within the common coastal land, this, said the Minister, 'refers to buildings that are legitimately occupied, and to their owners', who 'will be allowed to carry out repairs, improvements, modernization and consolidation, as long as none of these impliy enlargement of the total volume, or adding to height or surface area.'

The matter of beach access is also dealt with in the new draft coastal law, the width of access will be reduced from 100 metres to 20 in relation to the urban nucleii.

These measures significantly modify the Coastal Law of 1988 and are aimed at the rational exploitation of the coastline and at protecting the beaches from incursions by construction.

Environmentalists opposition
The above changes have been roundly opposed by most environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace, which considers that the law is offering an 'amnesty' for buildings on public beaches, and fears that it opens the door to more extensive use of the coastline.

Ecologistas en Acción, for its part, understands that to expand concessions for properties sited on public/common land 'is the equivalent of owning a private property on public land for a lifetime.' It considers that it amounts to privatization of the coastline and subjects it to further speculation.

As for WWf and Sea/Bird Life, they both agree that the draft law means a change in the spirit of the law and a backward step in terms of environmental protection because it 'prioritises financial interests above the natural environment.'

El Algarrobico
This enormous resort hotel was built in the 1990s on coastal land that was supposedly highly protected under the Nature Reserve regulations at Cabo de Gata - while laws against such construction were current. It has received several demolition orders but has yet to be torn down.

One of the reasons for the lack of execution is that the final sentence against its presence includes clauses whereby the builders, developers and other interested parties must be paid compensation, even though they continued building after they were ordered to stop.

The cost of pulling the building down is beyond the coffers of the Cabo de Gata municipalities and the Junta. Under the new draft law, it may well be allowed to stay and be completed.

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