Planning licences in Spain



Planning licences are the administrative instruments whereby Town Councils control activities such as construction and land use to ensure that these activities are carried out in accordance with the applicable planning regulations in the municipality.

The rules regarding licences are established in local regulations, and are usually different in each Town Council. That said, there are basically four different types of licences.

Building or construction licence

Called ‘Licencia de obras de edificación’, the building licence is required for all types of construction, including construction work on existing buildings, and the demolition and construction of new buildings.

First occupation licence

Called ‘Licencia de primera ocupación’, the first occupation licence is required to ensure that all relevant licences have been obtained, and that a property has been built according to all the relevant regulations. In principle, this licence must be obtained before the building can be utilised or occupied, and is required to set up utility contracts.

For commercial premises, two other licences are required.

Activities and installations licence

Called ‘Licencia de actividades e instalaciones’, and commonly known as the ‘licencia de actividad’ (opening licence), the activities and installations licence is required for installations such as lifts, air conditioning units, smoke evacuation ducts, and industrial plans. It is also required for certain activities to be carried out within a building.

Operating licence

Called ‘Licencia de funcionamiento’ the operating licence is required for operating the installations covered by the ‘licencia de actividades’.

The Town Council must grant the planning licences described above when all legal requirements are satisfied. So, for example, the town hall can only refuse the construction licence if the specific construction project does not comply with the planning regulations in force in the municipality. Any refusal must expressly establish the reason why (i.e. in which specific aspect the project does not comply with the relevant planning regulations). In sum, the Town Council cannot discretionally grant or refuse planning licences.

Negative Administrative Silence Rule

If the Town Council does not respond to a requests, the licence is deemed rejected under the ‘negative administrative silence’ rule in Spanish law.

Until July 2011 this was called the ‘positive administrative silence’ rule, but this law has now been turned on its head. Whereas before, a lack of response in a 3-month period meant ‘yes’, now a lack of response means ‘no’.