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A controversial draft Coastal Act Reform Law


The conflictive draft Coastal Act Reform Law will be soon debated in the Senate. However,  the spokesmen for different sources consider that the new amendments put forward by the ruling Popular Party are severely aggravating the threat that the system may suffer a regression to the prevailing urban model in recent times that has been so damaging to the environment. The present Coastal Act, in effect since 1988, was a landmark in coastal protection by (i) expanding in certain cases the easement (construction restriction) zone to a hundred meters from the coast and (ii) giving a period of 30 years - extendable to 60 – for pre-1988 buildings to be demolished.

The reform now proposed by the Government provides for an extension of the deadline for demolition up to 75 years, facilitates the exploitation of beach bars and parties (currently very restricted because of the health problems they involve) and extends the time limit to regularize the situation of different marinas in response to entrepreneurial demands. The latest amendments put forward by the ruling party (i) propose to reduce the area of coastal protection from one hundred meters to, in certain cases, only twenty, thus leaving the authority to grant work licenses in the hands of municipalities, (an authority that was responsible for many cases of uncontrolled urban development) and (ii) grant amnesties to twelve urban areas where homes still invade the public domain. Not even buildings threatened by the sea due to climate change are mandated to be demolished, unless they are actually invaded by water or, as vaguely put,  "there is a certain risk that this may happen”

The different implementation problems that have affected the enforcement of the Coastal Act do not seem to justify the reform that this Government intends to approve. The last attempt to reduce the protected area to only twenty meters from the coastal line will bring along, as an unwanted consequence, a relaxation of the controls presently affecting any work performed on such coastal strip, while also failing to rule the prohibition of new constructions, a goal that violates the spirit of the existing law, which sought to liberate the coastline of the pressure to which it was (and still is) subject. Unbridled urbanization and the occupation of beaches, riverbanks and marshes is an outdated model which, in addition to being ecologically unsustainable, can adversely affect the tourism industry.

We are of the view that the amendments proposed by the ruling party are against the public interest and change the rules of the game in progress; as a result, they are likely to generate grievances, legal uncertainty and litigation by going back in time to an urban development model that was deemed terminated and has been held responsible of aggravating the current Spanish crisis scenario.


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