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Regional development planning on the Costa del Sol

Essential cooperation between the Junta de Andalucía (Regional Government) and the Town Halls of the Costa del Sol, in order to organize the territorial model of our area.

By Ignacio Pérez de Vargas, Pérez de Vargas Abogados, Marbella

A conference about the territorial model of the Costa del Sol was held in Marbella on 28th and 29th January 2014 opened by the President of the Junta de Andalucía and closed by the Minister for Environment and Territorial Planning.

During the conference, several professionals linked to the University, the Public Administration and to the liberal professions, participated as speakers.

This is the right moment to open a debate about the model of territorial planning on the Costa del Sol, now that the worst part of the economic recession is behind us and there are rays of light on the horizon, announcing the beginning of recovery.

To this end, we understand that the Junta de Andalucía and the Town Halls should cooperate in the design of the type of cities we want for the future of the coastal tourist area of the Costa del Sol.

We must start with the existing territorial model which is now in a consolidation phase and has been developed over the last three decades and for which there are deficiencies which must be rectified.

Currently, we cannot hide the institutional stress existing between the municipalities of the Costa del Sol and the Junta de Andalucía in that most of the municipalities have been resisting to adapt their local general plans to the limits of growth set by the General Plan for Andalucía (POTA) approved by Decree 206/2006.

Although more than seven years have passed since the POTA approval, of the 62 Andalusian coastal municipalities, only 10 of them (16%) have revised their urbanistic plans in order to adapt to the POTA.

In order to encourage the municipalities to revise their general plans to adapt them to the limits of growth established in article 45 of the POTA, laws have been passed, but without the desired results.

Decree-Law 5/2012 has introduced urgent measures to stimulate the revision of these municipal general plans, i.e. the subrogation of the Regional Ministry in the planning power of the municipalities, in case they do not revise their general plans to adapt them to the POTA, and at the same time, the prohibition to process planning instruments of development which exceed the limits of growth of the POTA, in the municipalities that have not negotiated the mentioned revision of the urbanistic plan.

The Secretariat of Regional Development has passed the Instruction 1/2013 clarifying the limits of growth of the municipalities, established in article 45.4 of the POTA, which totally forbids exceeding the percentages of growth allowed (30% population and 40% urban land).

This clarification has caused the majority of Costa del Sol municipalities simply to not revise their urbanistic plans to adapt them to the new town model configured in the POTA, and therefore leaving the development of the legal framework incomplete.

However, the interpretation of the Courts is to consider the mentioned limits as basic guidelines, to be developed in the scope of the Costa del Sol by means of the application of specific criteria, based on the population, cultural, economic and territorial characteristics, etc., with possibilities of progress in an objective and reasoned manner.

We believe this is the correct interpretation, which would allow establishing the foundations of cooperation between the Junta de Andalucía and the municipalities of the Costa del Sol, in order to complete the standard-setting framework, which is currently unfinished.

Therefore, we support the alternative to complete the regional planning in the municipalities of the Costa del Sol, developing the basic criteria contained in the POTA, by way of application of the specific criteria which result from the singularity of the tourist municipalities of the coastline, and at the same time, respecting both the principle of the hierarchy of norms and municipal autonomy.

In the scope of the Costa del Sol, the population estimate for the calculation of the limits of growth, must consider the facto population, since we are talking about a coastal tourist area, where there is a high percentage of population not covered by the census, as evidenced by the sub-regional development plan of the Costa del Sol, with reference to the year 2003:

Registered population: 290,200
Actual population: 616,314

The Directive 1/2013 of the General Secretariat of Regional Development establishes that the existing population to be taken as starting point, basis for the calculation, should be the one contained in the last Municipal Register of Inhabitants. In this way, the estimate of growth will be based on the registered population and not the real population.

There is a substantial difference in calculating the 30% growth of the population, if it is based on the registered population in the municipalities of the Costa del Sol (290,200), or if it is based on the real population (616,314).

In the scope of the Costa del Sol, the growth calculation should exclude the areas of land qualified for global tourism, in the same manner as the Decree 11/2008 excludes industrial land, in order to enhance economic activity, for the regional Andalusian scope.

It seems obvious that tourism is the main economic activity of the Costa del Sol and consequently, the land qualified for global tourism should be excluded from the calculation of the limit of growth of new land for development, in order to encourage the economic activity in the area.

Equally, it seems advisable to exclude the land for the tertiary sector (commerce, offices, etc…) from the calculation of growth, for the same purpose of enforcing the economic activity of the Costa del Sol as a coastal tourist area.

In short, the Junta de Andalucía and the Municipalities of the Costa del Sol should cooperate in the scope of their respective responsibilities, in order to complete the revisions of the municipal urbanistic plans, in compliance with the singularities of the area, originated by tourism, as the main economic activity, in order to establish a legal framework which allows a balanced development for the future.

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