Spain wants to completely demarcate coastline against urbanisation

by Lorraine Williamson
coastline properties

MADRID – Spain is close to completing the delineation of its coastline. The government is in the process of defining the coastal strip that belongs to the public domain. That is the area that will be safe for urban planning.

The newspaper El Diario writes on July 25 that once the boundary of this domain and the (im)movable property that falls within it is known, the integrity of the coastline and the associated marine environment, its use and public enjoyment can be guaranteed. This is stated in reports on natural heritage and biodiversity from the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

Procedures therefore follow one another to find out what is public domain on a coast that is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to the climate crisis. “Integrity is guaranteed” by preventing “new construction, housing or hotels of any kind”.

Protection against overcrowding

Buildings directly on the coast have more than doubled in Spain over the past three decades. Since 1988, the state has the obligation to demarcate the entire Spanish coast to protect it against excessive construction. Thirty years later, according to the latest update, there were nine provinces with more than 99% of their coastline demarcated. For provinces such as Huelva, Bizkaia or Valencia it was 80%, Ceuta 78% and Melilla 67%.

Officials have been preparing the legal line for months. From short 180-metre stretches in Mallorca’s Cala Fornells, to the 34 kilometres of the Huelva coast between Matalascañas and the mouth of the Guadalquivir.

PP wants to exclude urban centres from demarcation

In response to the demarcation, the political party PP this week introduced a bill in the Spanish Senate to amend the regulations to exclude urban centres from the public domain on the coast.

Disorder along the coast is great

According to the third deputy prime minister of the government, Teresa Ribera, the disorder is great on the coast. She explained to newspaper El Diario her intention to reform the Ley de Costa (Coastal Law). “You can’t fool people or nature, because then comes the wave that defines the coast itself. It is necessary to restore the coastline for reasons of safety of the infrastructure and the people who live there.” The deputy prime minister added that certain scenarios due to climate change are becoming more virulent and frequent.

Spanish coastline very vulnerable

Spain has 10,000 kilometres of coastline of great ecological value. It is a very fragile coastline, with problems that will be exacerbated by climate change.

Cumbre Villas

Maria Jose Caballero of Greenpeace says that roughly every inch of extra sea level rise translates into about a metre of beach loss. On the north coast, the calculations point to an increase of 25 centimetres in this century. In the Mediterranean that will be 10 to 12 centimetres. “The coastline should protect us from that rise,” Caballero said.

Great ecological value

The Spanish coastline is of “great ecological value due to the variety of ecosystems: beaches, dunes, coves, coves, swamps or cliffs.

At the same time, the area has ‘great economic importance. Not only because 44% of the population lives in coastal municipalities that represent barely 7% of the territory. But also because 80% of tourists who come to Spain choose the coast for their holidays.

In summary, the Department of Ecological Transition states in a report that the coastline is “highly fragile in its physical balance, with significant erosion problems exacerbated by climate change.”

What does the demarcation mean?

Delimitation therefore implies that “the use and enjoyment of coveted assets such as beaches, dunes, cliffs, swamps or wetlands”, as defined by the regulations, must be “guaranteed for all now and in the future”.

Only sustainable and environmentally friendly activities

The legal demarcation process can take up to 24 months. Once completed, the coast will be protected by a direct mandate from the Constitution. It declares the demarcated area “inalienable, inexplicable and unfettered”. The demarcated area is “prohibited on new construction, houses or hotels of any kind”. Coastal activities are allowed as long as they are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Four strips

In addition to the maritime-terrestrial domain itself (the first narrow strip of land on the coast), there will be a second strip of protected land, even if it is already privately owned. It concerns a six-metre-wide zone that should allow mobility along the coastline. Adjacent to this runs the der the strip of ‘protection easement’, which is 100 metres wide. Existing buildings and private property will be retained, but certain restrictions will apply, such as no new (residential) uses. After the third strip comes an area of influence of another 500 metres with guidelines “to prevent the formation of ‘architectural screens on the edge of the coast’.

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