Spanish Property Confiscated

Spain is the second most popular destination for tourists in the world after France and is the most popular location for Northern Europeans to own a second home. It is thought that there are more than one million UK citizens in Spain with most of them living on the Spanish costa. Approximately forty per cent of the Spanish coast is built on, with many of the buildings constructed without the proper planning permission. The Environment Ministry has now launched an operation to protect the coast and clear buildings from more than 400 miles of coast. The move sees the Spanish government using the Ley de Costas law, passed over twenty years ago, to reclaim the first 550 meters of the coast.

The plans apply equally to buildings constructed without planning permission and those legally built. The plans seem also likely to apply to bars, restaurants and hotels erected along the seafront. The decision of the government to apply the 1988 Ley de Costas law has been widely criticised and pressure groups have been set up to oppose the government. The move first announced in November of 2007 has resulted in many property owners being notified that their property is targeted by the scheme. Some owners have already had the ownership of their property {{{removed|taken away}}, but have been permitted to stay on the premises on the agreement that the property cannot be sold or inherited.

A pressure group formed in Madrid now has over 20,000 members many of them non-Spanish citizens. The head of the action group Jose Ortega said "This is the single biggest assault on private property we have seen in the recent history of Spain" and he added "The state is destroying property without any concern for the law or human rights". It is also alleged, that by applying the 1988 law retroactively to property built and purchased in the 1970's, that the government is acting unlawfully in an unlawful manner. The Spanish property market has always had a reputation for political corruption, with local officials accused of taking bribes in exchange for planning permission. With this move the central government has shown it will no longer tolerate building on the coast no matter how good developers' connections with local officials are.

So far 1300 buildings built without planning permission have been demolished since the government come to power, with many more owners being issued with 60 year licences allowing occupation of the property for that period without the right to sell to individuals (they may however sell to the government). The multi billion euro scheme to improve the Spanish coast will no doubt add to the beauty of an already stunning area but the cost to the residential tourist market will no doubt be high. These moves come at a time when the once high performing Spanish investment property market has cooled considerably, largely due to rising prices and the development of Eastern Europe as a property hotspot. When once, Spain afforded the prospect of cheap property and a comparatively cheap standard of living to northern Europeans, now investors are inclined to look further afield for bargains.

The governments' move is likely to have a negative effect on an already struggling property market.

Amy Morgan is a freelance journalist writing on Spanish property law for Big Property Guide


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