Valencian planning laws and the “Land Grab” in Spain

Spain, and the Valencian Region in particular, have come in for heavy criticism for their infamous ‘land grab’ town planning laws that allow developers to expropriate land from private owners.

In Spain, town planning laws are devolved to the autonomous regions, which explains why there is a problem in some regions, and not in others. The biggest “land grab” problems are in Valencia.

In 2006, the Valencian government replaced the original ‘land grab’ law, known as the Ley Reguladora de la Actividad Urbanística (LRAU), with Valencia’s present town planning law, called the ley Urbanística Valenciana (LUV).

Though a slight improvement, the new law does not stop unscrupulous developers, in cahoots with local politicians, from presenting planning schemes that expropriate land from private owners, in some cases forcing them to contribute hundreds of thousands of Euros to the urbanisation costs.

Victims of Valencia’s town planning laws, many of whom have lost their homes and been financially ruined by greedy local developers and politicians, were forced to take their complaints to Brussels when it became clear that the local administration saw them as nothing more than ungrateful whingers. The European parliament has condemned Spain 3 times since 2003 on this question.

Many of the victims would argue that the worst aspect of Valencia’s town planning law is the right it gives developers to propose planning schemes on land that doesn’t belong to them, forcing affected owners to give up land at a fraction of its true value, and contribute tens of thousands of Euros or more to the costs of urbanising the land lost.

The EU has no jurisdiction over national planning laws, so is powerless to intervene on this front. Instead, the European parliament has attacked the LUV, and the LRAU before it, for violating EU public procurement procedures.

The chances are that any new law introduced by the Valencian government will do the minimum to comply with EU directives on public procurement, whilst allowing the so called ‘land grabs’ to continue.

Valencia’s notorious ‘land grab’ laws have been copied by other regions, such as Andalucia and Murcia, where similar problems are starting to emerge.