The recent ruling by the Spanish Supreme Court has caused an uproar among beach restaurant entrepreneurs and environmentalists in Andalucia. The former are relieved and the environmentalists are angry.
Spain’s highest court has declared invalid certain articles of the Coastal Law Regulation (Ley de Costas), which prohibit digging cellars in the sand or building more than one floor of beach bars. This decision is a victory for entrepreneurs and a setback for the Spanish government and environmentalists. They have fought for years against these concrete structures on public sandy beaches.
A victory for beach tent entrepreneurs
This ruling represents a breakthrough for entrepreneurs. They now have the opportunity to expand their beach tents again. For example, with underground storage spaces or an extra floor to serve more customers at the same time. Manuel Villafaina, chairman of the Federation of Andalucian Beach Entrepreneurs, is pleased with the ruling. He explains that regulations disadvantaged them by building basements. According to him, they contribute to the quality of the beaches by keeping storage of supplies out of sight, for example. He estimates that about 20 to 30 of the 500 beach bars in Andalucia could now apply for cellar authorisation.
Concerns among ecologists
On the other side are the environmentalists. They fear the negative consequences of such constructions on the erosion of beaches and the impact of climate change. The now rejected regulations were introduced precisely to protect the beaches against these effects. Ecologists such as Rafael Yus and Javier de Luis express their concerns in El Diario about the open door for new construction projects on the beaches and call for renewed regulations by the central government.
Flexible attitude of the Junta de Andalucía
Given the current situation, it does not seem that the Junta de Andalucía will change its tolerant attitude towards the construction of cellars. Previous cases show that the regional government tends to interpret the rules broadly. They even approved the construction of cellars that were banned by the central government. Environmentalists now fear that the protection of the coastal area is insufficient to meet the interests of beach bar operators.
Originally, chiringuitos were wooden structures that were placed on the beach during the season to provide beachgoers with drinks and snacks. Over the years they have been expanded and now form permanent structures all year round. And not only that, especially on the beaches of Marbella and Málaga, more and more modern beach bars have been added in the past ten years. Many of these structures are made of concrete, which offers the opportunity to create an underground warehouse or office. This creates square metres that do not have to be counted when applying for a building permit.
The beach tents are all built on the so-called Dominio Público Marítimo Terrestre (DPTM), the officially protected coastal strip. It is protected because of its natural value. Building on this sand strip causes damage and erosion of the sandy beaches. Nevertheless, the Spanish Supreme Court has now made this decision.