Spain’s 1988 coastal law will be revised, in the direction of environmentally costly development, following its February 19th approval by the majority of the Congress of Deputies.
The new legislative proposal provides amnesty to tens of thousands of owners of illegal properties, primarily holiday homes, beach bars and industrial facilities, instead of making the illegal development companies pay for the damage. The proposed law also introduces a dubious distinction between natural and “urban” beaches, the latter enjoying more lenient protection status, despite the fact that they may not necessarily be located near big cities.
According to a delegation of MEPs, who met with the Spanish authorities in order to discuss this law, the Government is misusing a 2012 resolution by the Petitions Committee on the need for effective coastal protection and legal certainty and justice for thousands of Spanish and non-Spanish EU nationals, who bona fide acquired property in illegally constructed urbanisation schemes along the coast. The resolution “urges the Spanish Government to ensure that those whose fraudulent actions have put numerous EU citizens in an intolerable situation through the loss or risk of loss of their homes are duly pursued and required to pay for the damage they have caused.”
In her capacity as Head of the Petitions Committee, Austrian MEP Angelika Werthmann stated that the use by the Spanish Ministry of this resolution in order to justify the proposed law is unacceptable and stated that in case the law is adopted in its current form, she will investigate possible violation of the EU’s environmental legislation. Danish MEP Margrete Auken, who also visited Madrid, told ENDS Europe “she was “furious that the Spanish government had used her report to justify the law. “They are weakening the law without protecting the population”.
Environmental groups, primarily WWF Spain, Greenpeace and Ecologistas en Acción, have been actively campaigning against this law. Following a meeting with a delegation from the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee, the three NGOs reported that the MEPs are concerned by the fact that the new law retroactively legitimises an illegal and unsustainable urbanisation model and disregards climate change and the need for coastal protection. According to Juan Carlos del Olmo, WWF Spain’s Director, the proposed law “turns back the clock on coastal protection by 40 years, when Spain went through the worst urban development along its coastline. There was never any political will to properly implement the Law on Coasts and is now facilitating its definitive demolition”.
In the meantime, 700,000 unsold homes, many of them illegally constructed along the beautiful Spanish coastline, are sad remnants of unsustainable policies that have led the country to a real estate bubble.
Greece is now trotting along the same path: the Ministry of Tourism recently announced a draft law that allows for the construction of large resorts and holiday home complexes along the coastline and even within protected areas.