Madrid moves to protect Spain from urban development

LAST UPDATED: 11 Jun, 2007 @ 14:32
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The Government has introduced a law to stop local town halls reclassifying protected land and concreting over more of Spain’s dwindling coastline.

The Natural Heritage and Biodiversity Law is to have a wider jurisdiction than the existing Conservation of Natural Spaces legislation (1989).
At a cost of 20 million euros, one quarter of Spain’s surface area will become untouchable if the tough new measures are passed by parliament later this year.

“None of these protected areas of land will be eligible for reclassification,” Minister of the Environment Cristina Narbona told a press conference on June 7.

“The law wants to prevent changes [in the status of land] designed to serve the interests of developers.”

“We want to preserve the conservation of our natural spaces and our biodiversity,” she continued.

Spain has one of the most diverse plant and wildlife in Europe. Due to the climate and geography, the country is home to 50 of the 100 species of natural wildlife endemic to the continent.

Furthermore, there are 9,000 different species of vascular plants, such as conifers and ferns – the highest in any one European country.

Madrid also intends to include marine territory in the new law’s jurisdiction to protect the country’s sea life from the damaging effects of pollution and fishing.

The news comes as green group Ecologistas en Accion has asked the European Union to investigate the loss of one-million square metres of sea grass meadow destroyed in waters off the Costa del Sol in recent years by over-fishing.

Loss of coast

The new legislation will seek to protect the country’s coastline, which has largely been lost to the booming construction industry in recent years.

Government figures show that provinces such as Málaga, Barcelona and Alicante have built up more than 50 per cent of their coastline.

Set to be hardest hit under the new law is the planned purpose built tourist resort at the Cabo de Cope-Puntas de Calnegre Regional Park in Murcia.

The Partido Popular (PP) regional government wants to declassify 11,000 hectares of protected land, which is home to one of the last populations in Spain of the spur thigh tortoise (Testudo graeca), to allow homes for 60,000 people and 20,000 hotel beds to be built, as revealed in the Olive Press (issue 21).

It is not only the coast that has fallen victim to rampant urban growth. Many towns in the interior of the country also have ambitious growth plans. The town of Seseña, between Madrid and Toledo, has a population of 10,000. However, homes are currently under construction that will boost the population by a further 14,000 people.

The government claims in the ten-year period between 1990 and 2000, Spain’s urban area increased by 25 per cent while the population rose by 4 per cent.

The pace of construction has barely slowed down. Figures released earlier this year by the National Statistics Office show that more new homes were built in the country last year than in Germany, France and the United Kingdom combined.
Officials from the opposition PP party have condemned the proposed new law as “highly interventionalist.”

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