The Valencian parliament has just passed a comprehensive new town planning law for the Valencian Community, which the regional government’s Councillor for Infrastructure, Land and the Environment, Isabel Bonig, recently claimed will “clarify powers between the Generalitat and town halls, increase flexibility, and improve legal security.”
Known as the Ley de Ordenación del Territorio, Urbanismo y Paisaje (LOTUP for short, or ‘Law of Territorial Planning, Urban Development, and the Countryside’ in English) the new law aims to simplify and speed up the regional town planning process, replacing five previous laws and two regulations with one slimmed-down law that reduces the legislation by 75 per cent, from 1,200 articles to 269.
The LOTUP replaces the Ley Reguladora de la Actividad Urbanísticas (LRAU), and the Ley Urbanística Valenciana (LUV), both of which caused huge controversy in the boom years by facilitating so-called “land grabs” in the Valencian Community, according to critics and property-rights activists.
Bonig described the approval of the LOTUP as a “historic day”, despite the fact that only the Popular Party of Valencia (PPV) voted for it. A member of the PPV herself, Bonig had previously called on opposition parties to rise above party politics and support the law, which she argued is fundamental for developing the region. In the end the LOTUP passed with out any cross-party support; the Socialists abstained, all the rest voted against.
Speaking at a conference organised in June by Valencia’s College of Architects, Bonig described the then draft law as the product of participation and consensus involving different groups including European authorities. “We hope the opposition is aware of the necessity of a normative text that has been agreed with Europe,” she said.
The LOTUP introduces the role of a “building agent” based on the “urbanising agent” role that did so much damage or good – depending on your point of view – during the boom. ‘Building agents’, like ‘urbanising agents’, are third parties who can sponsor plans for real estate developments without needing to be the outright owners of the assets to be developed.
“This will offer a new area of activity for small builders that can stimulate, when demand for it exists, the building and refurbishment of consolidated city areas, with a corresponding creation of jobs,” said Bonig at the time.
These new law will “drastically reduce the time to approve municipal town plans from the present 3 to 5 years down to just over one year, and will give investors, developers, town halls and individuals just one accessible point of contact,” claims Bonig.
Valencian town planning laws have been in flux for a decade, causing uproar by facilitating what property rights activists call “land grabs” by developers in cahoots with corrupt politicians.
At the very least, Valencian town planning laws and the “land grab” scandal have done huge damage to the region’s image abroad. It remains to be seen whether the latest law will do anything to address that problem.