New Andalucia planning laws hailed as a ‘victory’ for expat campaigners
Many people – including those from outside Spain – who are presently contemplating the merits of Sotogrande property may be interested to read about an important new development affecting real estate in the wider Andalucia region. Specifically, new planning legislation has been approved, in a move that has come as a relief for expatriate campaigners.
As reported by expat newspaper The Olive Press, a November 25 vote saw the Junta give the go-ahead to a law known as the Ley de Impulso y Sostenibilidad del Territorio de Andalucía (LISTA).
The idea behind this law is to streamline local planning procedures and decrease the time it takes for town halls to approve zoning plans. But what are likely to be the practical consequences of the new rules as far as the community’s affected property owners are concerned?
Major changes afoot for building projects in the region
The newspaper stated that according to government estimates, three in every five Andalucia municipalities presently does not have a town plan. Indeed, many have been trying to achieve approval for their plans for more than a decade.
However, the new LISTA is set to slash this wait to two years, in addition to tripling the number of pending plans.
Furthermore, land classifications have been simplified into just two types; urban (urbano) or not urban (rustico). This means there will no longer be the classification of land as urbanizable (suelo urbanizable).
The new legislation absolutely forbids construction on protected land. It does, however, leave scope for family homes to be built on rustic land in certain circumstances not necessarily connected to tourism or agriculture.
Especially good news for those in possession of “illegal homes”
If there is one group of people who are especially likely to welcome the new law, it is those who found themselves owning “illegal homes”. Such properties can now become regularised through what is known as an “AFO”, subject to certain conditions, such as the relevant time period having passed.
An AFO grants legal status to houses that were constructed without the necessary planning permission. The new law sets out what can be done with properties for which there is an AFO in place; whereas it was previously the case that only maintenance work on such houses was permitted, the new legislation also allows for renovation work to be carried out, except for actual extensions to the property.
One Andalucia resident and campaigner, Maura Hillen, was quoted by The Olive Press as saying: “It’s a small point, but a victory nonetheless for those that live in a property with an AFO. The restrictions on what can be done to an AFO property have been loosened a little bit, so that is a positive step.”
There have long been problems in the region with a jumble of planning laws and disputes between municipal and regional authorities leading to hundreds of thousands of residential properties being declared illegal. It is not only those homes that were built illegally by rogue builders and then purchased in good faith that were affected, but also properties that had the appropriate permission from the local council, only to be retroactively deemed illegal by regional planning authorities.
Lawyer Gerardo Vazquez, who has been working with expat homeowners’ associations in the region for 15 years, said the new law represented a “victory”, explaining: “While it incorporates previous reforms, it also contains important improvements given that irregular houses could now be consolidated and reformed, whereas before they could only be repaired.”
In Hillen’s words: “Now that the law is passed, they need to fill in the small print, but we are moving in the right direction. It took more than 10 years for us to get anywhere near the table to discuss the issues affecting homeowners, so we have come a long way, and I am optimistic for the future.”
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Blog Post 03/12/2021