Recently the Spanish Coastal Protection Law has stirred again, which raises a question mark over the whole issue of the legality (and sense) in buying a coastal property in Spain. The recent changes made apply to the legality of properties that are located too close to the coast or shoreline. Many Luxury first line villas (some owned by public figures and celebrities like Antonio Banderas) have been affected by this and in some cases demolition orders have been served on these properties. The worst affected areas are the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca, or any areas that are popular with tourists and where mass development has followed.
At the moment everything is concerned with a law passed in 1988 called the Ley de Costas (Coastal Law). This law was drafted with the intention of protecting the Spanish coastline from ruthless over development but also providing the public with easy access to the beach. As with the notorious LRAU (Valencian “Land Grab“ Law) it is well intentioned, but unfortunately the methods in how it is applied are often unfair and unjust. The Mediterranean coast has a delicate environment and needs to be conserved to protect it from further damage – most notably to protect it from aggressive construction in areas where first line coastal villas and apartments are much sought after.
The law segregates the Classification of the coastline into three areas :
“The public domain” – Which basically covers the area between the sea itself and the furthest point where the tide reaches – even in the worst of storms. This is essentially to ensure that the Beach (Shale, sand , foot of cliffs etc…) remains public property.
The Protected Zone – This are covers the next 100 Mts inland from the above public domain (But the Local or Regional Government can apply for a license from Madrid for this area to be extended a further 100 Mts). No building at all is to be allowed within this area.
The Zone of Influence – This area extends for 400 Mts inland from the end of the Protected Zone. Building is allowed in this area – but severe restriction on building licenses are applied depending on how close to the Coast the property is likely to be situated.
Naturally many properties were built within 100 Mts of the sea prior to 1988 when the law was passed and these can apply for a ‘concession’ meaning that they can avoid demolition. In order to apply for a concession you should seek independent advice from a suitably qualified and experienced Abogado. Equally so, if you find yourself looking to buy one of these said properties then have your Lawyer check that a concession has already been granted.
As you might expect in Spain, thousands of properties have been built in these “ Illegal “ areas after the 1988 Law was instated, seemingly with no such action being taken by the Local or Regional Government – and it is these properties that have a question mark hanging over them. DO NOT let an Estate Agent or potential buyer tell you that just because no action has been taken so far, that no action is likely to be forthcoming.
You need to scrutinize any potential property purchase situated near to the coastline. If you want to buy a front line property then ensure that your lawyer specifically checks its legality with this in mind. Ensure that your lawyer presents his report in writing and if at any time you are unsure or unhappy about the advise you are given then obtain a second opinion !