First summer under the new Coastal Law

With the entry into force of Law 2/2013, dated 29 May, for the protection and sustainable use of the coast, which modifies the existing Coastal Law, the environmental protection and sustainable development of Spain’s coast is guaranteed.

Spain’s coast is one of the country’s main attractions, annually attracting nearly 58 million international tourists, who visit motivated by the quality of the coasts and beaches.

The main objective of this Law is the environmental protection of the coast, and it distinguishes between beaches that are urbanised or undeveloped, and preserves virgin areas by limiting occupation and activities.

As a new feature, the Law includes a clause to stop any illegal construction before it can become established and sets out a new strategy in the fight against climate change.

What follows is a brief description of the main features of this new law.

The prohibition on new residential building on the coast is maintained, as well as the prohibition on improvement works which would increase the size, height or area of an existing building.

The Law excludes population centres from the coastal public domain area, as not being necessary for the protection of the coast. This was provided for by the 1988 Law through their decategorisation. This applies to 12 urban centres, which were inhabited and established since before 1988. In the main this covers normal housing situated in standard neighbourhoods, not hotels or businesses.

The width of the protected zone is maintained at 100 metres. The only new specification is how the special 20 metre rule, set out in the 1988 Law, will apply. There is, however, an express prohibition on new buildings in these areas.

The reduction in the protected zone may only take place in coastal population centres which, prior to 1988, were designated as being of urban nature.

In respect of chiringuitos (beach bars), the Law maintains those uses that are permitted or prohibited within coastal public domain areas. Whilst this gives these establishments greater security as to the periods and conditions of their concessions, they will be subject to greater obligations in terms of regulations and care of the beaches. They will be restricted to a greater extent on undeveloped beaches.

Residential areas will be controlled in order to protect coastal public domain areas, while the private ownership of the houses will be guaranteed, providing legal certainty.

There is a modification to the legal situation of historic owners of coastal properties, with these being given an extension of up to 75 years to their concessions, adapted to each type of use.

The competent figure for the authorisation of the transmission of licenses will be the State. There will also be a limited opening up of the sector, in order to improve the quality of the economic activities and the services provided in the public areas.

Finally, the Law requires the establishment of technical criteria to determine the extent of coastal public domain areas and includes definitions of the main components of such public domain, such as dunes or marshes.