- The bill to reform the planning laws of Andalucía shows that the government is listening but it does not please everyone
By Maura Hillen, MBE, former president of homeowner´s association, AUAN.
The government of Andalusia has announced its intention to deliver new planning laws within the ambitious timeframe of a year. To be known as the LISTA, Ley de Impulso para la Sostenibilidad del Territorio de Andalucía, or the law to promote sustainable development in Andalusia, the draft text promises much needed reforms in terms of promoting growth in the territory but has already raised concerns among the ecologists when it comes to the issue of sustainability. It is ever thus.
Replacing a failing system
The LISTA is designed to replace the LOUA, a set of regulations that, for that last 18 years has placed a stranglehold on development in Andalusia with its urban centric philosophy and a torturous planning approvals process that fails to differentiate between a village in the Valle of Almanzora and the city of Seville.
The statistics speak for themselves with El Mundo reporting that of the apx. 800 towns and villages in Andalusia, some 496 are currently dragging their town plans through an approvals process that takes an average of 9 years. Another 181 plans have been approved or adapted to the current regulations and 159 towns and villages have yet to do anything at all, after 18 years of the LOUA.
The administrative swamp enshrined in the LOUA coupled with its toothless planning enforcement regulations created the perfect storm for irregularities as citizens and town halls alike lost the will to live in the face of endless administrative procedures and the general lack of consequences when the rules were broken. Hence, why there are an estimated 300,000 irregular buildings in Andalusia.
Simplification, streamlining and development in the countryside
The LISTA seeks to address the failings of the LOUA by introducing simplified planning procedures for towns and villages with a population of 10,000 or less, and by streamlining the processes for the rest. It proposes to relax the urban centric planning model by permitting controlled development on rustic land such as isolated dwellings and projects that benefit rural communities, subject to conditions.
The procedures to apply for planning permission are also streamlined. The emphasis is on simplification according to government sources. Such measures are likely to be welcomed by our dying rural communities or those who have suffered through the pandemic trapped in a flat in Madrid when they could have been teleworking from a rural village in Andalusia.
A New Inspection Corps to identify those who break the law
In terms of planning discipline, the LISTA shows some baby teeth that might mature into something useful. It proposes the creation of a Corp of Sub Inspectors that will have the power to inspect and enforce planning regulations on behalf of the Junta de Andalucia. It also becomes obligatory to display your planning permission on site so that your neighbours and any passing authorities can be sure that the works are legal.
The prescription period for building without planning permission remains as 6 years and service providers are forbidden to connect properties that lack a licence of first occupation or administrative recognition and acceptance via an AFO or FO declaration.
Greater protection for buyers
Property buyers are also offered greater protection as the LISTA obliges the administration to record the initiation of any proceeding relating to a planning infraction against a property on the Land Registry. Something which the homeowners association AUAN has long demanded.
NO amnesty for irregular houses
The LISTA offers no new advances for the 300,000 houses considered to be illegal in origin in the territory of Andalusia but existing concessions have been retained in terms of recognition via an AFO and the possibility to use Special Plans to implant basic infrastructure. All concessions come at a cost to the homeowner and permission to perform any works other than maintenance will not be given.
Ecologists in Action are not happy
The LISTA is likely to endure a bumpy ride from Ecologists in Action. Whilst they welcome that the Junta clarifies its competencies in terms of urban discipline, something that they had long demanded, due, they say, to the inaction of most of the town halls and the consequent proliferation of illegal homes, they are not very happy with anything else. Their principle concern is the relaxation of the rules with regard to construction on rustic land which they claim will have dire consequences for Andalusia.
Somewhere between the pristine and untouched model of an Andalusian countryside as required by the ecologists and the living, breathing communities required by the people who live there, there lies the text of a planning regulation that will require compromise on all sides.
The time period for submitting formal proposals to amend or expand the text of the bill ends in July. We are not there yet but the conversation has started.