Spain pulls Land Law at the last minute

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Due to a lack of support, the socialist government led by Pedro Sánchez in Spain revoked the Spatial Planning Act at the last minute. The government wanted to avoid a major defeat in Congress just before the start of the European election campaign that starts tonight.

This ‘Ley del Suelo’ regulates the rights and obligations that all owners have on every type of land they own in Spain. It is the cornerstone of urban planning and spatial planning, as it regulates the right to build and the metrology for calculating land value.

Sumar, a coalition partner, announced that it would drop the law despite it being a bill approved by the Council of Ministers. Sumar’s spokesperson, Íñigo Errejón, joined the parties ERC, Junts and Podemos, who view the law as a return to the “real estate bubble culture”.

Political manoeuvres

With the withdrawal of the bill, the PSOE has avoided a second defeat in parliament within 48 hours. Their proposal to increase the penalties for pimping was previously rejected. The Socialists knew that several coalition partners, including Sumar, were against the text of the Spatial Planning Act. Still, they relied on the PP’s support to pass the land law. However, the PP threatened on Wednesday not to support the law to demonstrate the “parliamentary weakness” of President Pedro Sánchez.

Responses from the Ministry of Housing

The Housing Ministry justified the withdrawal saying “to ensure that this law is not influenced by the electoral situation”. Isabel Rodríguez, the Minister of Housing, stated that the law would be “made available to the parliamentary groups”. Despite the bill’s widespread rejection, Rodríguez focused her criticism mainly on the PP, which she said was “setting aside the public interest” to make things difficult for the government during the “election fever.”

Criticism

Sumar criticised the law for limiting public intervention and promoting real estate bubble culture. Junts and ERC expressed their objections on the jurisdictional issues. “A law that removes restrictions on possible environmental impacts and complicates public action in urban development plans is a law that promotes the real estate bubble,” Errejón said. Compromís emphasised the need for negotiations to improve the bill, pointing out that adding more housing to the market does not necessarily lower prices.

PP’s statement and PSOE’s response

The PP stressed in a statement that the withdrawal of the law shows the “unimaginable loneliness of the president”. Patxi López of the PSOE criticised the PP for their rejection of a “reasonable text requested by the FEMP.”

The Spatial Planning Act bill was first approved by the government in December 2022 but was later withdrawn due to early elections. It was resubmitted in March 2023 by the Ministry of Housing to limit the effects of complaints about minor and remediable defects in urban planning. With the withdrawal of the law, the PP strengthens its position that the government does not have sufficient support to implement the legislation. Meanwhile, the PSOE remains hopeful of future support after the elections.

Which reforms are not happening now?

The Spatial Planning Act that the government repealed contained a number of important reforms that will not now come into effect. The new land law aimed to ensure that, if there is a formal defect in an urban development plan, the entire plan would not be cancelled – as the current law requires – but that there would be a possibility to correct this aspect or only that specific part cancel. This would prevent plans, which require years of preparation and consultations, from being completely destroyed by a minor formal defect.

Zeroness in cascade

Another goal of the reform was to avoid “cascade nullity,” where all actions performed after a plan are invalidated if that plan itself is cancelled. The reform would only invalidate the parts directly related to the error.

Transition rules

The new Spatial Planning Act provided for a transitional arrangement so that cases that had already been brought to court and were decided after the entry into force of the Act would be covered by the new Act. The period for corrections would be one year, with a possible extension of six months. With these reforms, the government hoped to provide legal certainty and “practices of threat” by law firms, which municipalities

Also read: Estepona – from scandal city to Euopean urban planning example

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