At a press conference given in November, the Marbella Town Hall made it public that it will not be seeking to pursue 900 sentences pending against owners of illegally built properties in the town.
Some may find it a pragmatic approach but the Marbella Town Hall believes that it is the new PGOU (Plan General de Ordenación Urbana) – which sets out the town planning directives for Marbella and has been in effect for half a year now – that has prompted this step.
“It’s not that we don’t want to pursue the sentences that annul these building licenses,” said mayor Ángeles Muñoz, “but the new PGOU presents us with a different reality, and we are absolutely convinced that the future of Marbella lies in this direction.”
A new direction
Basically, the town hall believes the PGOU provides a legal framework through which the 16,500 illegally built properties in Marbella – and especially the 5,000 properties affected by earlier demolition rulings – can be legalised. It is indeed a pragmatic approach, but one in which the authorities prefer to legalise the properties concerned in an effort to normalise the local market and bring all completed housing stock within legal parameters.
Rather than pursuing costly and potentially destructive sentences against property owners that were in the vast majority of cases the victims of a situation in which developments were sold without what later proved to be proper legal planning permission, the town hall is working within the framework provided by the new PGOU to normalise the existing situation and focus on avoiding similar ones from occurring in the future.
Looking to the future
“This is a definite step forward in the path that we initiated three-and-a-half years ago to rebuild the credibility of the local institutional bodies,” said Muñoz. Referring to the consensus that exists within the local and regional authorities on the subject, she added: “There was never any sense in demolishing 5,000 homes, especially since so many are already inhabited by families that bought these properties in good faith.”
Having worked hard to create a legal framework designed to avoid illegal construction in the future, the Marbella Town Hall and the Junta de Andalucía (Regional Government of Andalusia) also wanted the PGOU to simultaneously provide a more practical alternative to demolition. “Now that we have a planning directive that provides such an alternative we simply cannot proceed with the sentences passed earlier.”
Avoiding old mistakes
Asked about the commitment to avoiding the planning abuses of the past, she answered: “We will not go back to that situation because we are now working to an approved planning directive that is vigilant, legal and also offers a practical means of dealing with the debris of the past.” The latter includes not only legalising and avoiding the demolishing of thousands of properties, but also provides a system that compensates for the public spaces and green areas lost during the years of rampant construction.