9 Feb, 2009 @ 18:54
4 mins read

The coast is clear… or not?


Has ratification of the 1988 Coastal Law changed anything in Andalucia?

IN October 2007, Madrid made an announcement of a radical change in the policy that has seen Spain’s coast become saturated in concrete.
Since the 1960s – when international tourism in Spain gained huge popularity – hotels, apartment blocks and homes went up at an alarming rate to satisfy the demand of the millions of visitors who come to the country each year.
Coastal construction has not slowed in the intervening 40 years with 260,000 hectares of the coast built on between 2000 and 2005 alone, according to figures released by government think tank the Observatory for Sustainability in Spain.

In its manifesto for change – called the Strategy for Coastal Sustainability – the government decreed to get rid of 800 kilometres of coastal constructions illegally erected after the Coast Law of 1988.

Planning issues

This means thousands of homes, hotels, plastic greenhouses and even swimming pools built on Spain’s sands and 100 metres inland face demolition.
While initially a statement of intent the government is asking the regional authorities and town halls to follow suit.

But this being Spain, the whole process could take years before any actual measures emerge, by which time plenty more concrete will have been poured over the coast with the report on Mijas in this issue it certainly seems to be going that way.

Furthermore, the Socialist government in Madrid has little power over urban planning issues, which are controlled by regional governments. The remit of the environmental ministry stops at the edge of the beach, so any deal on illegal properties will need the support of the regions.

It is hard to imagine any consensus involving those key regions – such as Valencia and the Balearics – that are run by the right-wing Popular Party, which is opposed, on principle, to any initiatives from its political rivals in Madrid.

Even this week, the government has made concessions to allow houses built before 1988 to escape demolition and even be sold on.

While Cristina Narbona, Spain’s environment minister claims she is following through with the law, it looks as if the fudges will long continue.

Below are just some of the plans the government has for Andalucía if its sustainability scheme comes to fruition.


For many years, the beaches of Cádiz were – relatively – free from the rampant model of construction witnessed further east.
Today, however, many parts of its coastline are a carbon copy of Marbella. More than 32 per cent of its 272-kilometre stretch of coastline is built up. The government fears this figure would be higher were it not for the fact the province has nine areas of its coastline protected.
But still, in the words of the province’s environment chief, “the situation is so out of control that the very survival of Cadiz’s coast is under threat from irreversible destruction.”
For out of control, you maybe could read Chiclana. Construction in the town has been under the judicial microscope for a number of years.

As one environmentalist claimed: “Chiclana is a true disaster. There are around 25,000 illegal homes in the municipality, many of which do not have electricity or an adequate sewage system.”
On a smaller scale, constructions in Vejer de la Frontera and Conil also face demolition.


The Costa del Sol is a 200-kilometre stretch of concrete and glass. In describing the coast of Málaga, the government could not have been more damning.
Almost 51 per cent of the first kilometre inland is built up while in some parts of the coast, construction kisses the water of the Mediterranean – a sea that is predicted to rise by as much as half a metre by the end of this century.
There are more than 1,000 chiringuitos, beach restaurants famous for fried, fresh fish, on the sands of the province’s beaches. These will have to come down under the government’s plan.
As will the luxury villa of Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas, which was allegedly built upon public land in Marbella.

Also in this glitziest of towns, 240 homes in the Banana Beach complex will be demolished.
All in all, the 26 kilometres of litoral in Marbella have been “maltreated,” making it “almost impossible” for the government to rectify the instability of the sands.
In this small town of 11,000 has doubled its population since 2002.
In Estepona, the Rada Hotel being built by construction company Prasa was demolished at the end of last year. Sitting on public land, just 25 metres from the beach the tourist complex was never opened for business.


Granada may only have 81 kilometres of coastline, but that has not spared it from uncontrollable development nor the government’s proposed clean up policy.
At the border with Málaga stands the protected, dramatic Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Park. With its pine trees that reach the shore, quiet beaches and oft-sighted ibex goat, critics claim part of the protected land has been “illegally” privatised for a housing development.
In Almuñecar, the government would like to rid the town, whose population has grown 18 per cent in five years, of two hotels that invade the beaches at el Pozuelo and Playa Capitán.

There are also moves to restore the coast to a more natural state at Punta de la Mona, Herradura, Marina del Este, Peñon de Lobo, Playa del Muerto and Playa Cabria.
All in all, the Costa Tropical resort has the highest number of coastal infractions along Granada’s modest coast.


Next, we reach Almería, where constructor’s cranes compete for space with the plastic of agriculturists.
According to the Strategy for Coastal Sustainability, here you find “a rapid deterioration of the natural conditions that is in a lot of cases irreversible to correct.”
The government has highlighted 18 black spots along the coastline, including a proposed 145,000 new homes in Almazora, a population of 11,000.
There will be plans to dismantle plastic greenhouses, especially between Albufera Nueva and Playa de la Habana.
Several beaches will also be restored to a more natural state.
Nearby in Enix, hotels and apartment blocks will be knocked down while in the protected park of Cabo de Gata, which enjoys some of the most stunning scenery in Spain, beaches will be returned to a more “natural” state.
Also in this natural park, there are – according to central government – “degradations in the landscape at [popular resort] San José and a vast occupation of the littoral.”

marta del castillo casanueva
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