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Government tones down notorious Ley de Costas, or Spanish Coastal Law

La Manga, a Ley de Costas minefield
La Manga, a Ley de Costas minefield

The Spanish government is taking steps to tone down parts of Spain’ s notorious Ley de Costas or Spanish Coastal Law, which nationalised the entire Spanish coastline in 1988, confiscating private property without compensation other than a concession of use – a type of lease – that some owners managed to get.

Up until now, it was illegal to sell these concessions, which can run for a maximum of 60 years from the date they are granted. To make life easier for owners who have had their properties confiscated by the Ley de Costas, the government now plans to legalise the sale of concessions. This will create a market for concessions, and compensate owners with an asset that has value and can be sold.

Concessions are only available to owners of properties that were legally built before the Ley de Costas was introduced in July 1988. Properties built without planning permission, or built after that date, are not eligible for a concession, and will not benefit from this change.

The Ministry of the Environment is introducing the changes by the back door, reports the Spanish daily ‘El Pais’. Rather than amend the Coastal Law itself, the changes were tagged, at the last minute, onto a maritime navigation law prepared by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Development. The draft changes were approved by the Spanish cabinet on 5 December, and must now go before parliament.

Although the Coastal Law was approved more than 20 years ago, the outcry over the Coastal Law didn’t explode until 2004, when the new Socialist Prime Minister Zapatero appointed Cristina Narbona to run the Ministry of the Environment. She made implementing the Ley de Costas and ‘reclaiming the coast’ one of her department’s priorities.

Officials at the Ministry of the Environment are reported to be unhappy about the changes, arguing that it will make it harder to reclaim the coast for the public.

But according to José Ortega, a legal expert on the Ley de Costas, most affected owners have not been granted the concessions they are entitled to, which will limit the impact of the proposed improvements.

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