Today we shall talk about the peculiarities of the urban town planning situation in Marbella and the legal issues of real estate that are not within the set criteria of the General Urban Development plan of 1986.
Why, you can ask, do we need to go so far back in time? Because on the 4th of November 2015 the Supreme Court of Spain overrode the General Urban Development plan for Marbella from 2010, which at that time was a decision of the regulatory procedure, approved by the Government of Andalusia, the Town Hall of Marbella and the state administration in charge of urban town planning rules in Spain. Deciphering legal terms and definitions, we understand that this means the complete and total disappearance of the plan from the year 2010 – as if it has never existed. That, accordingly, leads to the restoration of the previous urban plan – adopted back in 1986.
Why, you can ask, do we need to go so far back in time? Because on the 4th of November 2015 the Supreme Court of Spain overrode the General Urban Development plan for Marbella from 2010, which at that time was a decision of the regulatory procedure, approved by the Government of Andalusia, the Town Hall of Marbella and the state administration in charge of urban town planning rules in Spain.
Deciphering legal terms and definitions, we understand that this means the complete and total disappearance of the plan from the year 2010 – as if it has never existed. That, accordingly, leads to the restoration of the previous urban plan – adopted back in 1986.
According to one of the main Spanish newspapers «El País», about 20 thousand real estate properties were built on the basis of 1009 issued building permits not being within the set criteria of the General Urban Development plan of 1986 – both houses and commercial buildings. About 300 licenses were invalidated according to court decisions, the others were not being appealed in given time and have not been revised by the relevant authorities.
Marbella during the era of Jesus Gil administration or, as the papers say, his “11-year sovereignty”, was ruled with illegal urban planning, ignoring completely the General Plan of 1986. The plots declared as green areas in the 1986 plan were used for the developments, townhouses or apartments have been built where the 1986 plan only allowed villa construction with a lower construction percentage.
In general terms the built intensity has been increased on the basis of “punctual modifications” of the 1986 plan carried out by the Town Hall to the wishes of the Mayor, depending on his interests, from which the corruption cases resulted, everybody could read about in the press. Juan Antonio Roca, the former right hand of the corrupted Mayor, is still in prison nowadays.
The new General Plan, finally approved in 2010, included the possibility of “normalizing” (meaning – legalizing) of real estate, “made in violation of town planning rules or in the absence of technical and engineering validity”, in simple terms, built illegally. The Supreme Court stated that the urban planning itself did not have the appropriate authority in legalizing those illegally built properties and confirmed that “good intentions of those who created the plan of 2010 do not make urban planning itself legal”. Furthermore, the plan of 2010 lacked some formal documents, for example the environmental report and long-term economical sustainability. In total, the court brought to a focus 6 reasons that influenced the cancellation of the plan.
Obviously, the plan of 1986 has lost its applicability. Today we can count only on the rationality and flexibility of the town planning rules that will help to become a temporary solution before the approval of the final version of a new full urban plan. The situation is not simple and creates significant uncertainty. The newspapers write – “Marbella now finds itself in an urban plan chaos”, “Confusion in the town administration and concerned developers, furthermore property owners”, “Marbella urbanism is pushed back 30 years”.
“The process of the development of the new General Plan can take up to few years…”
The legal rules applicable to real estate built in violation of Marbella Plan of 1986, i.e. according to the construction licenses that do not comply with the plan 1986, do not legalize these properties, though they are protected by oficial licenses for construction. At this stage, during the process of the plan adaptation, amendments to the current plan are impossible. Properties that have been built before the final approval of the new urban development plan and do not coincide with the current legal regulations, have got the definition – “outside of urban regulation.” In the future they might be reviewed accordingly. Their current status is temporary and will become final only after the verification, to put it simply, after a revision of the old Marbella plan of 1986 made within the legal framework that has been established by the Supreme Court of Spain after overriding the General Urban Development plan for Marbella from 2010. The process of the development of the new General Plan can take up to few years but some work will be done before, for example the administrative process of bringing the old plan into conformity with the law on town planning norms of Andalusia province, taking into Account the provisions of the Decree 11/2008. This process can be completed by the competent administrative authorities, the Government of Andalusia and the Town Hall of Marbella within six months, as it has been done in other municipalities, for example, in Estepona. The Mayor of Marbella Jose Bernal indicated that this work would include serious adaptations and modifications.
The president of the Andalusian Federation of Developers and Residential Tourism Ricardo Arranz has said that he expects that the development of the new General Plan can take up to five years. He points out that it is important to find solutions that will work and that activates will not be paralyzed. The Supreme Court’s decision should not lead to a reduction in construction volumes, or have a negative impact on the urban real estate market.
The town administration and the City Council legal services are working actively together with the Andalusian Ministry of Urban Planning on all matters related. The administration is of the opinion that urban licenses that have been under planning currently, the ones about to be finalized or have already passed recently “are firm and fit right”. In the process of revision of Marbella Plan of 1986 the legalization of most of the houses is expected.
There is another unresolved issue – a dispute over the property tax paid to the town hall on licensed urban land according to the plan of 2010, now returning to its previous status as rustic land as classified in the plan of 1986. But I do hope that, as they say, whatever happens – happens for the best, and all these events will be a kick in the pants to get Marbella administration and the Government of Andalusia going, and produce greater efforts and enthusiasm towards effective steps to develop proper arrangements and regulate the situation of urban Development in our town. It will create many new opportunities for investors and Marbella will blossom even more. Many people have found themselves in the existing situation, including our Development Department, but we are optimistic. Let’s not give up and work with what the plan of 1986 offers. If we actually look at the possibilities, we can see that they are still there … and time is running really fast.