Thursday, 16 May 2013

New coast law could open up old wounds

El Algarrobico, one of the worst
coastal excesses ever
MADRID A draft law is about to be approved by the Government could make it easier for developers to continue the destruction of the Spanish coastline. Ironically called the Law for Protection and Sustainable Use of the Coast (Ley de Protección y Uso Sostenible de las Costas, or Ley de Costas for short, thus confusing it with its 1988 predecessor), the few kilometers of coastline that remain unspoilt are in imminent danger of development. As we reported here, an 80-metre strip that runs parallel to the beaches and has sometimes remained pristine (or at least unbuilt) is likely to be reduced to a mere 20. This would allow large tracts of coastline to be rezoned for residential construction. According to El País, "The ammendments to the Coast Law have been introduced quietly. At present, properties built on protected areas prior to 1988 are subject to numerous rules and regulations, and their owners cannot make any changes to them. Federico Ramos, Secretary of State for the Environment, says he doesn't know how many properties will be left unprotected." The changes were debated in the Senate on April 23, and now comes up in Council, probably as soon as next Friday, for final approval.>>>While it is true that many homes built during the country's construction boom in defiance of the current 1988 law may be saved from demolition (if they were ever really threatened by it), the changes will open up areas for yet more construction.

The region that is most likely to benefit from the Law for Protection and Sustainable Use of the Coast is Galicia (from whence comes Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy), but the law is national, and there are some 600 municipalities all over the country where the law could be applied.

Some of the authors of the 1988 law, under the Felipe González government of the time, have warned of the dangers inherent in this new law. It will fail to protect the coastline by allowing anybody who wants to regularize their situation to simply request the necessary reports from the Environment Ministry. If after 18 months they have not had confirmation of approval, they will be allowed to assume that as they have not been turned down, they can go ahead and build.

Logic defied
Common sense would dictate that if an application is made and not answered, then approval is not made either. However, the Environment Ministry has said in answer to parliamentary questions, that the law will only allow extensions to existing homes, not building from scratch.

Several organizations, including Greenpeace, against the law say that given the past history of construction and corruption, when building licences for 'small renovations' turned into massive buildings, the proposed law is no guarantee that the same will not happen again.

El País quotes Rita Rodríguez, a lawyer working for the World Wildlife Fund: "A local council can get away with murder. [...] What mayor is going to refuse to recognize building permits from 1988 saying that everything was in order at that time?" 

Manuel Marraco, an environmental lawyer, accuses the government of arrogance: "This administration is driving down the freeway in the oncoming lane, and accusing everybody else of going in the wrong direction."

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