Expat campaigners claim ‘small victory’ as Andalucia approves new planning laws

ANDALUCIA has approved far reaching new planning laws in a move welcomed by expat campaigners as ‘long overdue’.

The Junta rubber stamped laws that will streamline planning procedures across the region in what was seen as a positive step by expat homeowners.

Known as the Ley de Impulso y Sostenibilidad del Territoria de Andalucia (LISTA) the new law, approved in a vote on November 25, promises to streamline planning procedures and reduce the time taken by town halls to approve zoning plans.

According to government estimates three in every five municipalities in Andalucia currently lack a town plan and many have been trying to get their plans approved for more than 10 years.

But the new LISTA will reduce this timeframe to two years and triple the number of plans in progress.

It also simplifies land classifications into just two types, urban (urbano) or not urban (rustico), eliminating the classification of land as urbanizable (suelo urbanizable).

The LISTA absolutely prohibits construction on protected land although it leaves the door open to the construction of a family home on rustic land in certain circumstances not necessarily linked to agriculture or tourism.

But the law is particularly good news for those who found themselves in possession of ‘illegal homes’ that can now become regularised through what is called an “AFO” assuming the relevant time period has passed, and other conditions are met.

The new law outlines what can be done with properties with an AFO – which gives legal status to houses that were built without correct planning permission enabling them to be registered, gain access to services such as water and electricity, and means they can be bought and sold.

Previously, only work to maintain them was allowed but the new law allows renovation work barring actual extensions to the property.

“It’s a small point, but a victory non the less for those that live in a property with an AFO,” explained Maura Hillen, a resident of Albox and a leading figure in the AUAN, which has campaigned for the rights of those who found themselves with ‘irregular’ properties.  

“The restrictions on what can be done to an AFO property has been loosened a little bit so that is a positive step,” she told The Olive Press.

A jumble of planning laws and disputes between municipal and regional authorities saw hundreds of thousands of homes declared illegal in the region, not only those which were built illegally by roque builders and bought in good faith but also those which had the correct planning from the local council and were retroactively declared illegal by planning authorities on a regional level.

The Priors
Helen and Len Prior watched as their dream home in Almeria was demolished.

Some people have lived for years with demolition orders over their properties and one couple, Len and Helen Prior are still living in their garage 13 years after house was destroyed with a wrecking ball.

Gerardo Vazquez, a lawyer who has spent 15 years working with expat homeowners’ associations in Andalucia, said the new law represented a ‘victory’.

“Whilst it incorporates previous reforms it also contains important improvements given that irregular houses could now be consolidated and reformed whereas before they could only be repaired,” he explained.

Gerardo Vazquez Ante La Comision
Gerardo Vazquez address the committee. Phot: AUAN

However he tempered his remarks by highlighting that more work was needed on the details of how the new law would be applied.

“The biggest problem at the moment is that some town halls and their technical services seem reluctant to apply new regulations,” he said. “It seems that some of them are living in the past and the old cumbersome and bureaucratic way of doing things.”

“I understand that the duty of the local administration is to facilitate the regularization of housing to the greatest extent legally possible, since that is precisely the spirit of this new law.”

Hillen added: “Now that the law is passed, they need to fill in the small print, but we are morning in the right direction. It took more than ten years for us to get anywhere near the table to discuss the issues affecting homeowners so we have come a long way, and I am optimistic for the future,” she said.

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