Goodbye to Galicia’s Concrete Blocks

29 August 2018

The Galician Regional Executive is imposing more orderly and aesthetic urbanism to municipalities without urban planning rules. The government is prioritizing the adaptation of new buildings to the environment and to traditional construction.

The wide range of municipalities with no urban planning, 215 of a total of 313, which had been governed by minimum standards dating to 1991 and which are already obsolete – three land laws have been approved since then -, will henceforth be subjected to a basic urban planning corpus, that sets outs more orderly urbanism and aesthetic rules. The new rules regulate everything from the appearance of canopies and roofing to the walls that surround farms. The Basic Regional Plan, which was published on Monday in the DOG, but will come into force in a few weeks when it is published in the four provincial bulletins, has a more protectionist bent for non-urbanized spaces and will be mandatory for those countries that lack their own planning. “Determinations of Basic Regional Plan will be binding on any municipalities that lack a general plan for municipal ordination, until they are endowed with such,” the text assures, incorporating the urbanistic and planning guidelines of the territory as approved in the last years by the Regional Executive, especially the Lei do Solo (Land Law) and its regulatory development, both approved in 2016.

Municipalities with less than 5,000 inhabitants may delegate their planning. The Basic Regional Plan, besides being the immediate legal framework for any municipalities lacking planning, will be the template on which the basic municipal plans should be elaborated, and include some urgent urban planning instruments that the Regional Executive will elaborate for those municipalities that ask for it expressly, delegating this function to the Regional Government. The Regional Executive thus assumes the important task of assisting the municipalities that lack the means to elaborate their own urban planning, delimiting the rural centres, the consolidated urban land and the rural version. However, in those municipalities that have a General Plan for Municipal Ordination (PXOM), the basic plan will have a complementary nature. In other words, it will fill the gaps in municipal planning without modifying land classification.

Standards for buildings

The buildings must be convergent and “with constructive aesthetic solutions.” The “anything goes” phase is over. Both the materials and the colours used in houses must be adapted to the environment and houses must be adorned “with characteristic features”, as well as ethnographic elements of interest such as balconies or galleries. Buildings must employ “constructive aesthetic solutions”, according to the rules of the Lei do Solo, “without major transformations or negative alterations”. In other words, the displacement of earth is limited.

Walls and Canopies

Goodbye to concrete blocks. The elements that close off farms must also be in harmony with the existing structure in the area. Opaque materials are limited to 1.5 meters. From there, vegetal or metallic elements must be used. The traditional walls – those of stone, for example – should be preserved and any new ones should be inspired by them. If the walls are built using new techniques, they must be justified. “The use of cement blocks or factory materials is prohibited unless they are duly covered and painted.”

The canopies and roofs of any houses should be adapted to the predominant style of each geographical area (roofing with slate or tile, for example). The use of corrugated sheet metal without covering is prohibited.

Facades

Integrated into the surrounding environment and with walls treated as facades. The facades must also be adapted to the characteristic construction of their surroundings. The walls should be treated as if they were facades, to avoid the terrible visual effect that occurs in many Galician towns. Service networks should preferably be placed underground. Thus, electric power lines must avoid “a strong visual impact” to avoid a mishmash of wiring. The buildings that are not in agreement with this directive will be able to do conservation works, without worsening their lack of compliance.

Height

Between 10 and 7 meters. In consolidated urban lands, one-floor houses cannot exceed 7 meters, while those with two floors should be limited to 10. In rural areas, the height may not exceed 7 meters.

Rural centres

The dwellings must be “completely” finished. Exposed brick or unpainted homes are prohibited. Detached or paired single-family homes are allowed. Only one dwelling is allowed per plot, and the occupation of the land may not exceed 50% of the net plot. Farms must have a minimum area of 300 square meters. The buildings must adhere to the constructive solutions provided for in the Lei do Solo. The typology of the constructions and the materials and colours used should not only be integrated into the environment, but all of their elements must be completely finished. “Exposed partitions are explicitly prohibited, as is the use of other materials without covering or painting.”

Town councils with problems approving their planning

Approvals for urban planning can be complicated, especially when there are platforms or individuals that successfully take legal action. This is the case of two Ourense towns. In the case of Verín, a year and a half ago, the Supreme Court vetoed its urban planning after a complaint by an individual. Curiously, the urban development document approved in 2012, was the second annulled by the court. In Monterrei, the document was also annulled by the Spanish high court. Both municipalities had been elaborating urban development plans for months. Something very similar has happened in the municipality of Abegondo, in the province of A Coruña.

In Cambre, the local government determined the redrafting of the PXOM in 2010, but the breach of the contract and errors of the packaging of the documentation made the current local government rescind the contract at the end of 2017 and reconvene a new tender. Regarding Noia, the plan was approved definitively a couple of years ago but was sent back by the Regional Executive. This was due to the lack of a hydrographic report that guaranteed the population’s water supply, among others. Meanwhile, Rianxo had already received approval, but during the elaboration process, the Lei do Solo changed and it was necessary to readjust it. In Carnota and Mazaricos they have also been trying to approve the plan for years.

Several municipalities on the Costa da Morte have been awaiting approval of the PXOM for years, without success. Sometimes, it is for judicial reasons, since the TSXG has just cancelled the initial planning of Muxía because it was not submitted for a strategic environmental assessment. Other municipalities lack rules for many reasons: lack of agreements, differences of opinion with the Regional Executive, lack of political will, changes in government… Although in different phases, Cee, Cerceda, Corcubión, Dumbría, Fisterra, Malpica and Vimianzo are still pending.

In Celanova, a PXOM approved in 1995 is in force. In 2008, the drafting of the revision was awarded to a company that was absorbed by a Chinese multinational that broke away from the planning division.

Original Story: La Voz de Galicia – Pablo González

Photo: Merce Ares

Translation: Richard Turner

 

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