Dramatic curbs on costal urbanisation planned

18th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

18 July 2005, MADRID — The Spanish government is poised to take dramatic steps to curb an urbanisation frenzy that has eaten up a third of its Mediterranean coastline.

18 July 2005

MADRID — The Spanish government is poised to take dramatic steps to curb an urbanisation frenzy that has eaten up a third of its Mediterranean coastline.

At a conference on Saturday, the environment minister, Cristina Narbona, announced a plan to buy up ecologically sensitive land and private property that blocks public access to the beach, the British daily The Guardian reported.

She said it was the first time such a protective measure would be attempted in Spain, where local politicians have rolled out red carpets to developers since the 1960s.

Traditionally, ecologists say, the government has sat idle while land-use decisions are left to local authorities, who depend on building permit fees and other revenues.

Narbona declined to say how much the government would spend on the land purchases, which would only be carried out in "exceptional cases".

But on its website, the environmental ministry published a EUR150m (GBP100m) plan for coastal restoration and protection that calls for "a large budget devoted to expropriations and the relocation of buildings in the public domain".

Under the plan, the government would also restore dunes and create maritime walkways to act as barriers to speculation.

Ecologists say the land purchases are an insufficient remedy.

They blame the urban blight on foreign demand, lax building laws and Spaniards' penchant for property investments - coupled with a black market that continues to flourish despite crackdowns on gangs who launder money through property deals.

Urbanisation already consumes 59 percent of the Andalusia coastline, with even higher concentrations in resort towns such as Marbella and Málaga, according to a report by Greenpeace Spain.

The construction craze began in the 1960s as the country began to attract tourists.

In the 80s Spain's entry into the EU boosted its popularity.

From 2003, 1.7m Spanish homes were owned by foreigners, including 400,000 Britons.

Investors also flocked to real estate. "Instead of putting money in the stock market or art, the average Spanish citizen invests in bricks and mortar," said Juan López de Uralde of Greenpeace Spain.

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Subject: Spanish news

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