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Back in the early eighties the need to protect the Spanish coastline from an overly aggressive building industry, pushed the Spanish government to launch a series of measures intended to regulate constructions on the seafront.

The result was an amendment of law 28/1969: the Coastal law (ley de Costas) or Law 22/1988 that was put into effect on the 1st December 1989. This law is drafted in a comprehensive 72-page document and it can be found on the website of the “Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino” (Environment Ministry) on http://www.marm.es/es/costas/legislacion/

For a series of reasons too long to go into detail in this article, the autonomous regions were rather slow at executing these regulations, but after few years it reached a very wide enforcement. In the last few years several autonomous communities added even more restrictive regulations.

The “ley de costas” in Practice. Definitions

  1. Ribera del Mar o Zona de dominio público Marítimo terrestre (Sea front or public zone). This area comprises the tidal zone of the beach, the beach itself and if present, the dunes behind it. This area belongs to the state, and other than in specific cases it cannot be owned privately.
  2. Deslinde (Demarcation line). This is the line separating the sea front area of public ownership from the interior.
  3. Zona de influencia. This is a band 500m wide from the demarcation line “Deslinde” to the interior. The local administrations have to manage this area in order to include services (for example parking areas close to popular beaches) and to limit the height of buildings and other architectonical characteristics.
  4. Zona de servidumbre de protección (protected area). This is a band 100m wide from the demarcation line “Deslinde” to the interior. In areas classified as urban in December 1989 the width decreased to 20m. In this area building is forbidden.
  5. Zona de servidumbre de transito (right of way area). This is a band 6m wide from the demarcation line “Deslinde” to the interior. It is part of the protected area. Exceptionally the width can be increased up to 20m for places with access difficulties (cliffs or mountains for example). This band has to remain freely accessible to pedestrians and emergency vehicles.

Public Zone

A private building in the public zone will have a demolition order put on it if the house was built after December 1989.  For private constructions already existing when the law was enforced it could be eventually expropriated. The owner could apply for a 30 years occupation license renewable only once.

Protected area

Constructions already present in December 1989 will be allowed, but regulated in the following way:

  1. Any maintenance work or change that doesn’t imply an increase of volume of the building will be allowed with previous authorisation from the regional or town administration.
  2. Any extension will be strictly forbidden.
  3. In the right of way band only maintenance work related to hygiene or safety will be allowed.

What is the status of your property?

The different areas can be seen using a web application from the Ministry of environment accessible to everyone at http://sig.marm.es/dpmt/
Maps from the provinces of Granada, Lugo, Tarragona and the Balearic Island are accessible. You will see on the satellite maps: plot numbers, the “deslinde” (green line) and the protected area (yellow line).

What can you do if the “Ley de Costas” affects your property?

If you receive a demolition order or an expropriation notification related to the “Ley de Costas” you have to contact a.s.a.p your lawyer to act quickly within the deadlines indicated in the injunction received, and appeal the order administratively or through court. In many cases the “Deslinde” is quite difficult to determine, as it is not always easy to tell where a beach ends.

If you want to buy a property.

If the property you want to buy is potentially affected by the Coastal law “Ley de Costas”, your lawyer should request a certificate from the provincial office of the “departamento de costas” as often the information is not present in the cadastral information and sometimes not even in the Land registry “Registro de la Propiedad”.