Environment sacrificed to urban development say experts

Front-line charm

Front-line charm

Spain has done a poor job of developing its coastline over the last 30 years, most reasonable people would agree. Over-development dominates in many areas, creating a “wall of cement” effect that puts off an increasing number of holiday makers and potential holiday home buyers. You could say that, in many areas, the environment has been sacrificed without mercy to urban development.

Greenpeace has been agitating about this for years, detailing in its annual report (entitled ‘Destruction at all Costs) the damage that years of mindless over-development have wreaked on Spain’s once beautiful coastline.

So it’s hardly news, but it is an important issue, which is why it needs to be kept on the agenda. And a new report from the Observatory of Sustainability in Spain (OSE) does just that.

Just published, the report reveals that between 1987 and 2000 alone, before the construction frenzy of the last decade really got going, Spain’s built land increased by 30%. As a result , Spain’s cultural and environmental heritage is under threat from urban over-development, argue the experts in sustainability behind the report.

It doesn’t have to be that way, say the authors. Other countries, especially in Northern Europe, try to balance urban development with environmental protection, but not Spain. “Town planning is the priority in Spain, in contrast to countries in the North of Europe,” they say. Unfortunately, over-development has already had “disastrous consequences in terms of the environment and landscape that have a negative effect on people’s quality of life.”

Spain’s misguided “urban vision”, coupled with a policy of “protecting pockets of land in nature reserves” amounts to a “short-termist” development model that has resulted in the “massive destruction of our heritage, especially our natural heritage.”

Pockets of beauty remain

Not all cement

What do they recommend for sustainable development in future? That Spain sees it’s landscape as a “complex, fragile, and non-renewable resource” that needs to be protected by law.

Will anyone pay them any attention?

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About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based property market analyst and consultant, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008). He can be reached by email on ms@spanishpropertyinsight.com.