The real estate boom and the high prices of properties on the Coast have given rise to an increased planning pressure in inland Andalucía in the last few years.

The consequence has been a rising demand of properties in the countryside, the majority illegally built and acquired at much cheaper prices than on the Coast.

The Andalusian Law on Land Use (LOUA) has on grounds of sustainability, restricted the construction of properties on rural land when it is necessary for agricultural, forestry or livestock production purposes.

This makes it impossible to build residential properties in the countryside which is in contradiction with reality as buildings continue to spring up like mushrooms.

This restriction produces a black market with illegal properties appearing via all kind of tricks such as refurbishing existing properties which appear in the title deeds.

Most of them being built with a licence to construct a tool shed which ends up being a home.

Local councils do very little to tackle this problem, they do not have enough staff to carry out inspections and to process the proceedings to restore the original planning order.

In addition, most villages have a small population where everybody knows each other and the mayors do not want to gain personal enemies if they do not rule in their favour.

This could also lead to potential lost votes in future elections. Finally a great number of councils are unable to escape the extended problem of the planning corruption in Spain.

Within this scenario, unscrupulous developers sell illegal properties to purchasers, most of them foreigners, who are finally served notice with the aim of pulling down the building. (see the article I have a demolition order)

Some of these purchasers end up being criminally prosecuted together with the builder and the architect with a potential punishment of up to three years imprisonment for having built on specially protected land or where building is not allowed.

The system has failed, because of the late reaction by the authorities causing distress if the illegal property is pulled down, but also environmental damage when this cannot be achieved since the statute of limitation for the authorities to react is over.

Certain measures could be considered to help resolve the problem:

One is to transfer the power of granting planning permission and inspection from the Councils to the Junta de Andalucía to avoid development of personal and political enemies.

An ample consensus is required as to whether it is reasonable that people may not be allowed to build a countryside property as the LOUA states.

This is something to be faced in the Axarquia where 3.858 properties have been built in the last five years.

However, on the other hand the Spanish Law on Land Use which follows EU environmental policy considers that rural land has value in itself which needs to be preserved and is in opposition to developments beyond the natural borders of existing towns.

In this context, we should demand that the Law is respected. The competent administration should provide the necessary means to achieve this avoiding irreparable damage.

This would help change the citizen’s pessimistic perception of the administration’s undertaking to enforce planning legislation.

Please note the information provided in this article is of general knowledge only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice.