The RICS and other qualified surveyors working in the Survey Spain Network, with many years‘ experience here, get to think a lot about urban development and the impact it has on local environments, communities, and economies in different Spanish regions.
In the light of our experience, Catalonia’s recent decision to impose a moratorium on all new development in coastal areas of Girona province, home to the Costa Brava, may be a good thing. Not just for the environment, but also to stop building for the sake of building, just because the promoters can get the finance to do it. A ban on building new will raise the value of the existing housing stock, and new developments where permission has been granted and escape the ban. A similar move over a number of years has been successful on the Balearic Islands in protection of the natural features that are the reason for the areas being so attractive. The character of a beautiful natural beach can be radically altered by the ‘graffiti’ of hotels or apartments being built along it’s shoreline. We have enough of those, so let’s keep the natural ones that remain.
The moratorium will freeze new development whilst Catalonia works out what kind of urban model would be best to develop the coast in the years to come. There’s no denying that much of the development in the past has been mindless and unattractive, leaving a blight on the landscape, environmental damage, and skewing the local economy in negative ways that only become apparent over time. But though the Costa Brava was one of the first Costas to be developed as a tourist destination in the 50s and 60s, coasts further south, like the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol, have more than caught up. They’ve arguably gone much further down the road of over-development. So the idea of rethinking the development model is one we think should be welcomed in other regions.
It’s likely the moratorium will temporarily reduce the income in the areas affected, both for the municipal governments, and also for all the workers and bars, restaurants, etc where they spend their wages. In the boom-bust cycle when an over-development construction bubble bursts, that happens anyway. It would mean that the officials and individuals affected will have to find other ways to raise finance, with policies to help create lasting jobs and real employment. Many in Spain have to get out of the ‘El Dorado‘ mentality of easy, ‘one off’ money, and create the conditions for working opportunities and a sustainable economy. Reducing the costs of self-employment would be a start, thus releasing entrepreneurial ideas and also bringing more ‘black’ into the light of the real economy.
We’ve worked recently in Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol, and the Costa around Huelva. Cranes, cranes, cranes, everywhere, surrounded by urbanisations of seemingly sold, but vacant, houses and apartments. Who is going to occupy all these new homes? I can only hope they go on the rental market to reduce the huge increase in rents, such as those in Campello, which have doubled in the last two years. No family or economy can cope with that. So, a pause and rethink of urban development on the Costas would be a good thing for everyone